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Gods and Generals
2003 - PG-13 - 220 Mins.
Director: Ronald E. Maxwell
Producer: Ronald E. Maxwell
Written By: Ronald E. Maxwell
Starring: Jeff Daniels, Stephen Lang, Robert Duvall, Mira Sorvino
Review by: John Ulmer
"Gods and Generals" is targeted directly at the CWBs out there, a.k.a. the Civil War Buffs. It is so painstakingly boring and dull that only the fanatics could care about it. It is as if any interest in the film is tossed aside, just so the small amount of true CWBs out there can enjoy it, and nudge each other when their favorite historical figure comes on screen. Which, by the way, is easy to note, as every time anyone comes on screen--or any location comes on screen--white subtitles appear at the bottom of the frame, telling us who or what we are looking at, in such a fashion that only the true illiterates in the audience would have a hard time following who's who and what's what.

"Gods and Generals" is notable for being a prequel to the 1993 hit "Gettysburg." I've not seen "Gettysburg" yet, and after seeing "Gods and Generals," I'm not so sure I want to. Unless "Gettysburg" is an entirely different breed of film, it will be boring, dull, unmoving, and 100 % cheesy.

In "Gods and Generals," every line muttered by a character is some grand, psychological metaphor. Sometimes the quotes are true, such as when Robert E. Lee found out that General "Stonewall" Jackson had lost his left arm. "He has lost his left arm, and I have lost my right." But when Lee (Robert Duvall) says it in this film, it seems forced. Everything they say seems forced. As if they are reading off a cardboard slate off-screen. And every scene is at least ten minutes long, even the most non-important snore-fest scenes. In one scene, Jackson lies in bed with his wife and expresses his wishes to have a child. Well, he could easily say it and they could end the scene in two minutes flat. But by sticking to what I will call the "Every Line Must Be Memorable and Be a Metaphor" pact, which no doubt was formed before the film went into production, Jackson mutters on in fancy style for TEN minutes (yes, I checked my watch) about his desire to have a child. There are only so many words that can express the feeling of wanting a child. Jackson uses them all, and after that, uses a few more. No wonder it took so long for him to have a child - after that long speech, all his wives probably died of boredom.

"Gods and Generals" has good potential to be a sweeping epic, but it tries to hard to live up to something it can never be. Every scene is at least ten minutes. Ten minutes short for history buffs, and ten minutes long for a regular audience. Every line is smart yet forced. And as every minute went by, another person in the screening room left. I wish I had.

Just for the record, in the course of exactly 3 hr. 40 minutes running time, the screening I participated in went from about twenty viewers to eight. You can take that as whatever sign you want - good or bad - but I suggest that you do not drink any soda if for some astronomical reason you decide to sit through this snoozer.
Movie Guru Rating
A train wreck.  So bad some may find it unintentionally entertaining.
  1 out of 5 stars

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