Gods and Generals
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Gods and Generals, directed by Ron Maxwell, is a "prequel" to the film Gettysburg. Where Gettysburg covered a single Civil War battle, Gods and Generals is more ambitious; it deals with three major battles:
- The first Battle of Bull Run
Where Gettysburg was not focused on any one character, Gods and Generals is mainly concerned with General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson (played by Stephen Lang). I would not hesitate to say that this is a terrible film, one that it is ideologically driven, one that glorifies war, does not give due weight to the fact that one cause, the Union's cause, was superior to the other, and presents a too favorable image of General Jackson. It is horribly written and much of the acting is declamatory. This is a film for Civil War buffs, those who romanticize war generally, and those willing to accept a highly sanitized view of the southern cause. With respect to the last, this film frequently approaches the mark set by D.W. Griffith in the silent classic Birth of a Nation.
Sentiment in Gods and Generals
The film drips sentimentality. It does so from the very beginning where, as the credits are shown, a lovely Irish voice sings a sweet and moving song while a succession of regimental battle flags-north and south-appear on the screen. Throughout the film the war is sentimentalized and glorified. The focus is on bravery, gallantry, and self-sacrifice. One gets the sense that the three vast blood lettings depicted are somehow hallowed events that, because so much heroism occurred in them, they were things ennobling and uplifting.