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IN SHORT: A prequel to the TNT miniseries Gettysburg which should have kept to the small screen. Avoid. [Rated PG-13 for sustained battle sequences. 229 minutes]
What can we tell you about this three hours, forty-nine minutes prequel to the Gettysburg TV mini-series?
There was a reason it wasn't screened for the press.
For those wanting to see nifty recreations of Confederate victories at Fredericksburg and the Wilderness, know that the non-battle time is filled by a bad teevee soap opera recreation of the life of Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson (Stephen Lang). We walked in without painkillers. Big mistake.
One hundred and forty years ago. A time when educated gentlemen rarely spoke with the use of contractions in their sentences. A time when certain States were threatening to secede from the union. A time when Northern Irish who did not want to battle it out in New York's Gangs could take out their frustrations on the Irish of the South -- all of 'em wear green to make it easy to distinguish the clan. A time when certain gentlemen were not pleased with the concept of emancipation for "darkies". It is a Northern gentleman that uses that racist term, by the way. All the southerners treat their negro acquaintances with respect. This is the Civil War told from a Southern point of view, y'see.
As the first part of a promised trilogy that will conclude with something to be called The Last Measure (at which time we assume Northern carpetbaggers will be blamed for Jim Crow), Gods and Generals introduces us to philosophy professor Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels). Though he loves his wife (Mira Sorvino) to the hilt, Chamberlain has contacted the Governor of Maine to volunteer for regiments being formed to comprise the Union Army. Being an educated man he will receive a command appointment and will have a larger part in Gettysburg.
In Washington City, this being 1861 and way pre-District of Columbia, command over the Union Army is being offered to Colonel Robert Edward Lee (Robert Duvall), graduate of West Point and an outstanding citizen. The bigger problem is that Lee is a dedicated resident of the great, soon to be ex-state of Virginia and his loyalty is to his home before his Home, if you catch the drift. No mention of States Rights, which was a dominant political force in the Nation in the years before the War, just a simple refusal to stand against his neighbors. Lee will subsequently be appointed to lead the Armies of the Confederacy in their "second war of Independence."
Though Lee is in Command, this focus is on General Stonewall Jackson and that focus is filled with dialog as badly soap opera-ish as you can get. Filling out the bad soap opera portions are Chamberlin's wife Fanny (Mira Sorvino), Jackson's wife Anna (Kali Rocha) and, once you get past the twelve minute Intermission, the too cute to live five year old Southern Belle-in-training Jane Beale (Mia Dillon), whose family was caught in the middle of the battle of Fredericksburg.
We're going to stick with the simple description because this movie is so Godawful that you'll wonder how the Just and Righteous Lord God that everyone prays to incessantly would allow this thing to flourish. All the Good Christians we know, and everyone in this film takes pains to point out their devout religiosity, wouldn't inflict this pain on their friends, either.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Gods and Generals, he would have paid . . .
Rent for the battle scenes. We've heard that an eventual DVD will run close to six hours so we're hoping for more blood and gore.
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