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Gods and Generals is a 2003 film based on the novel, Gods and Generals, by Jeffrey Shaara. It is considered a prequel to the 1993 film Gettysburg, which was based on The Killer Angels, a novel by Michael Shaara, Jeff Shaara's father. The film stars Jeff Daniels as Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and Robert Duvall as Robert E. Lee. While many of the actors from Gettysburg reprised their roles for this film, Stephen Lang is one of a few to play a different character: George Pickett in Gettysburg and Stonewall Jackson in Gods and Generals. Martin Sheen, the original Lee, had conflicts due to the shooting schedule of The West Wing, and was replaced by Duvall.

It was directed by Ronald F. Maxwell, who had previously directed Gettysburg in 1993. After the box office underperformance of Gettysburg, Maxwell was unable to get the prequel greenlit until media mogul Ted Turner provided the entire $60 million budget.

Plot

The film centers mostly on the personal and professional life of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, a brilliant if eccentric Confederate general, from the outbreak of the American Civil War until its halfway point when Jackson is killed accidentally by his own soldiers in May 1863 during his greatest victory. It also follows, to a much smaller degree, the personal and professional life of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a Maine college professor who enlists in the Union army and becomes second-in-command of the 20th Maine Infantry. The film prominently features the Battles of First Bull Runmarker, Fredericksburgmarker, and Chancellorsvillemarker. The film's original running time clocked in at nearly 6 hours (much like the original running time of the already-produced-sequel "Gettysburg"). The longer version featured the Battle of Antietam, as well as an entire plot following the American actor and future presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth and his colleague Henry Harrison (from the already-mentioned "Gettysburg").

Criticism

Critics disliked the way the characters tend to deliver soliloquies at each other instead of speaking conversationally. However, many critics such as Leonard Maltin praised the film's impressively staged battle sequences.

The differences between the film and novel include the omission of Winfield Scott Hancock as a major character; the deletion of Stonewall Jackson's less savory characteristics and eccentricities; the introduction of scenes and characters not in the original novel (primarily during the battle and destruction of Fredericksburgmarker); and the complete expulsion of the actions of Darius N. Couch, John F. Reynolds, and George G. Meade, which led to the successful preservation of the Army of the Potomac after the defeat at Chancellorsvillemarker.

In addition, the first third of the book that deals primarily with the events leading up to the Civil War and gave important background information of the characters was also entirely deleted, particularly the unrest in Southern California, which was put down peaceably by Hancock and Armistead — the final farewell in California between Hancock and Armistead alluded to in Gettysburg; John Brown's seizure of Harpers Ferrymarker and the recapture of the arsenal by Marines led by Lee and Stuart; Texas Governor Sam Houston's refusal to support secession; and Lee's contempt for David E. Twiggs's surrender of the Department of Texas to the rebels. Similarly, critics claimed the film skirted the issue of slavery by having several Southern generals, particularly Stonewall Jackson, give historical anti-slavery speeches..

Throughout the film, most of the main characters are on the Confederate side. This is very different from Gettysburg, where both sides are presented more equally. Only two African-American actors are depicted with speaking roles, and while both of them are depicted as somewhat pro-Confederate, one clearly expresses appreciation for the Union cause and both express the desire for themselves and their people to be freed from slavery.

The movie completely skips over the Battle of Antietammarker, but in this it is similar to the book.

The film includes a speech from Chamberlain in which he criticizes the Confederacy for being hypocritical in supporting "States' Rights" while denying human rights to an entire race of people.

Ron Maxwell himself talked about the opposing views of slavery as depicted in the film during an interview on The 700 Club. During his interview, he stated that most of the Confederates were opposed to slavery, but viewed the abolition of slavery as "God's will, in God's time." The Union held the view that the abolition of slavery was "God's will, by their hands." Maxwell briefly explored these opposing views of slavery in his previous film, Gettysburg. Contemporary Southern society at large tended to view slave holding as a natural right. And although there was a divergence of slavery views in the North, the prevailing political view before the war held that slavery should be wiped out gradually, by restricting it to the South while banning its spread in the territories.

Sequel

Jeff Shaara has stated that "because of the poor box office results for Gods and Generals, Ted Turner has dropped all plans to finance a film version of The Last Full Measure but stated that someone else may yet step forward".

Director's Cut

DVD cover for the film
The "Director's Cut" version of Gods and Generals has an alleged running time of six hours, and has never been released to the public in any format. For the theatrical release, almost two-and-a-half hours of footage were removed to get the length down to approximately 3 hours, 39 minutes. Among the footage edited includes a sub-plot which follows John Wilkes Booth, the famous actor who would eventually become the man who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. One scene towards the end of the extended cut of the film features Chamberlain and his wife, Fanny, attending a production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in which Booth plays Brutus. Chamberlain and his wife have a conversation with Booth and his fellow actors following the end of the play.

Another scene cut from the film features a performance in Washington, D.C. in which Booth plays the role of Macbeth, which is being seen by President Lincoln. When he gives the famous "dagger of the mind" soliloquy, he looks directly at Lincoln while reciting it. Later, when Booth is offered the chance to meet with Lincoln, he refuses.

Possibly the one scene that historians were sad to see removed from the film was the sequence dealing with the Battle of Antietammarker. The battle was seen mostly from the perspectives of Jackson (who played a major strategic role in the battle) and Chamberlain (whose brigade was held in reserve). A few minutes of footage from this scene was available online, but since appears to have been removed.

When Ron Maxwell showed the director's cut of the film in a very early pre-screening, it received a standing ovation at the end. However, there are apparently no plans being made by Warner Bros. to release the extended version of the film on DVD. At one point, Dennis Frye, who served as associate producer and helped organize the units of reenactors used in the film, supposedly said that the film was intended for release in the fall of 2005. However, this did not occur.

Cast



Soundtrack

In 2003, the film score was released in support of the movie. The soundtrack is notable for containing a previously unreleased Bob Dylan song, Cross the Green Mountain. The track was later included on the compilation album The Bootleg Series Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs

Production

Ted Turner has a cameo in the movie as Colonel Waller T. Patton. Colonel Patton, the great uncle of George S. Patton, was mortally wounded at Gettysburg, a scene depicted in the movie Gettysburg. United States Senators George Allen (R-Virginiamarker) and Robert Byrd (D-West Virginiamarker) also have cameo roles, both playing Confederate officers, Phil Gramm (R-Texasmarker) appears as a member of the Virginia Legislature early in the film and Congressman Ed Markey (D-Massachusettsmarker) also appeared as an Irish Brigade officer. Most of the extras were American Civil War reenactment, who provided their own equipment and worked without pay. In exchange, Ted Turner agreed to donate $500,000 to Civil War battlefield preservation.

Some scenes in the movie were filmed at Robert Duvall's estate in Virginiamarker. The estate was the scene of several skirmishes in the War. Many scenes were filmed on private farms and property including two scenes filmed at St. James School, Hagerstown.

Russell Crowe was the original choice to play Stonewall Jackson. He had begun reading and practicing for the role until his wife went into labor back in Australia, forcing him to drop out. Stephen Lang had begun to reprise his role as George Pickett, but instead was asked to fill in the role of Jackson. Billy Campbell, who had played a 44th New York lieutenant in Gettysburg was called in to hastily replace Lang in the role of Pickett. Although Tom Berenger greatly desired to reprise his Gettysburg role as James Longstreet (which he called his favorite role) he was unavailable because of scheduling difficulties. Bruce Boxleitner was instead cast in the role after his original character of Darius N. Couch was cut from the screenplay (but later readded, portrayed by Danish actor Carsten Norgaard). Martin Sheen was prevented from reprising his role as Lee due to contractual obligations to The West Wing.

Notes



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