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Battle of Gettysburg 150th Anniversary


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#21 of 32 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted July 04 2013 - 12:56 PM

Okay, guys, a question for you: I'm about to dig in and watch Gettysburg and Gods and Generals for the first time this weekend.  Which should I watch first?  I know Gettysburg came first, but isn't Gods and Generals a prequel?  Which is the best viewing order?

Personally, with both films being so long, I would view Gettysburg first since it's the superior film in spite of its battle taking place after Gods and Generals events.  I would think some people would get burnt out watching both films back to back and I wouldn't want that to happen on the better film if it was viewed second as there is so much rich dialogue in Gettysburg.


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#22 of 32 OFFLINE   JohnMor

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Posted July 04 2013 - 01:20 PM

Thanks, Crawdaddy.  Gettysburg it is. 



#23 of 32 OFFLINE   Johnny Angell

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Posted July 04 2013 - 02:43 PM

I have GaG and I couldn't finish a third of it. It came across as a series of speeches delivered by actors acting.
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#24 of 32 OFFLINE   Ray H

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Posted July 04 2013 - 03:08 PM

I'm currently trying to get through Gods and Generals. 3 hours down, 2 more to go. :D

 

Overall, I'm finding it a bit too episodic. The battles so far have been somewhat hard to distinguish. Fredericksburg was nice as we got a Union perpective and a little more flavor.

 

My biggest issue with these films so far is they feel a bit too Confederate-heavy. The movies focus on Southern generals like Lee, Longstreet, Pickett, Armistead, and Stonewall Jackson. While they're all great men and characters, we get a lot of Confederate planning as a result. The Union, however, is only really represented by Colonel Chamberlain. Another great man, but his lower rank prevents us from seeing much of the Union coordination.


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#25 of 32 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted July 04 2013 - 03:57 PM

I'm currently trying to get through Gods and Generals. 3 hours down, 2 more to go. :D

 

Overall, I'm finding it a bit too episodic. The battles so far have been somewhat hard to distinguish. Fredericksburg was nice as we got a Union perpective and a little more flavor.

 

My biggest issue with these films so far is they feel a bit too Confederate-heavy. The movies focus on Southern generals like Lee, Longstreet, Pickett, Armistead, and Stonewall Jackson. While they're all great men and characters, we get a lot of Confederate planning as a result. The Union, however, is only really represented by Colonel Chamberlain. Another great man, but his lower rank prevents us from seeing much of the Union coordination.

It's because of history, in the first two years of the war, the generals from the south were out-generaling the ones from the north.  That's why a third film would've been nice because then they could focus on the young generals from the north that took charge of Union forces the last 2.5 years of the war and helped changed the outcome of it.  Generals like Grant, Sherman and Sheridan. 


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#26 of 32 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted July 05 2013 - 05:15 AM

These films are based on a trilogy of historical novels by the father-son writing team of Mchael Shaara and Jeff Shaara. Gettysburg  was based on Michael's The Killer Angels , which won the Pulitzer Prize for literature. Then Jeff completed the prequel his father had left unfinished Gods and Generals  and the sequel The Last Full Measure. Script writer and director Ronald Maxwell supplemented this literary source with his own primary research.

 

Ten years ago when Gods and Generals  was released producer Turner and director Maxwell said they would complete the trilogy with The Last Full Measure, which picks up where Gettysburg  left off, showing the defeat of the Confederacy. Perhaps the box-office disappointment of Gods and Generals  discouraged them. They seem to have abandoned their plans. Or maybe they don't want to deal with Robert E. Lee's surrender. I was so looking forward to it.

 

The studios had no creative control over the content nor creative involvement over the execution, thank goodness. History is put first by filmmakers who understand it That's never happened before in Hollywood. Gettysburg  and Gods and Generals are historical films to be cherished. It is a miracle either film got made.


Edited by Richard--W, July 05 2013 - 05:22 AM.


#27 of 32 OFFLINE   David_B_K

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Posted July 06 2013 - 08:43 AM

I agree with Robert on the order in which to watch the films. While I am a fan of both, Gettysburg is far better, IMO. It follows only the battle of Gettysburg, and follows the source book almost verbatim. Any background info about the war up to that point is provided in conversations between the main characters.

 

Gods and Generals covers several years and several major battles and is thus more disjointed. Character development suffers as well. As a history buff, I enjoy Gods and Generals as an accurate film with impressive sequences. However, compared to Gettysburg, it leaves me a bit cold. I started watching it the night after finishing the 3-day Gettysburg-a-thon. It was not nearly as compelling as Gettysburg was right from the start.

 

Posted by Ray H:

 

The Union, however, is only really represented by Colonel Chamberlain. Another great man, but his lower rank prevents us from seeing much of the Union coordination.

 

Remember in Gettysburg, Union Gen. John Buford is given some fairly significant screen time as the man who knew the entire Rebel army was coming, and who picked such defensible ground. Robert is right that the top commanders in the Union army at that time were not the key players at Gettysburg. We also briefly glimpse Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren at the start of the Little Round Top sequence. He was the man who, at the last minute decided that troops should be placed on Little Round Top. In the film, he is shown standing in the exact pose of the statue of him that stands on Little Round Top:

 

Gouverneur_K._Warren_Gettysburg_statue.jpg

 

I do agree that Gods and Generals is too Confederate-heavy. The novel by Jeff Shaara had 4 major characters: Lee, Jackson, Chamberlain and Hancock. The film decided to concentrate primarily on Jackson, and to a lesser extent, Chamberlain. Lee is only a supporting part, and Hancock gets even less attention than he did in Gettysburg. Instead of including more scenes from the novel, writer/director Ronald Maxwell supplied more actual scenes from history. Some of the scenes are right out of the novel, but many of the Jackson scenes were provided by Maxwell. It's been years since I read Gods and Generals, and I have read several non-fiction books on the Civil War since, but I don't believe the novel included such scenes as Jackson's farewell to the Stonewall Brigade (an unnecessary scene, IMO) and the whole bit about the northern/southern Irish brigades fighting each other at Fredericksburg (I could be mistaken, but I don't think those scenes were in the book). Also, several characters were added to the film that were not in the book. I think Jeff Shaara essentially disassociated himself from the film.

 

At least the extended cut adds more of Chamberlain to the movie. The theatrical release was maybe an 80/20 mix of Jackson/Chamberlain. It's at least 70/30 in the longer version. In spite of its flaws, I still enjoy watching G & G. Because I am so familiar with the story, my mind fills in the parts that are left out. And there some impressive set pices that make the movie worthwhile in spite of its flaws; and Stephen Lang is impressive as Jackson. However, people who are not well-versed in the Civil War may find it tedious.

 



#28 of 32 OFFLINE   Ray H

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Posted July 06 2013 - 10:10 AM

Thanks for the info! I managed to finish Gods & Generals on Friday. Overall, it's a decent movie which lacks a strong narrative. My friend is a big Civil War buff and he's been trying to get me to watch these films for years. I did find it strange that nearly the entire Confederate command was recast with different actors (even if Lang returned in a different role).

 

I'd be interested in seeing a film of The Last Full Measure. Perhaps it could be done as a History Channel miniseries. That would help with the running time concerns. Jeff Daniels looks pretty good considering Gettysburg was released 20 years ago. Coincidentally, it looks like Robert Duvall is set to star in a non-Civil War film called "The Last Full Measure".


Edited by Ray H, July 06 2013 - 10:14 AM.

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#29 of 32 OFFLINE   Johnny Angell

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Posted July 06 2013 - 11:11 AM

Posters are referring to the source books as novels. I thought G&G and G were non-fiction. Are they fictionalized histories?
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#30 of 32 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted July 06 2013 - 11:38 AM

The Shaara books are historical novels; in this particular case, more history than fiction because fiction is put into the service of history.

 

David B_K --  Stonewall Jackson is a remarkable character. Have you ever seen a Civil War character, or any character out of American history, explored in such depth and breadth on the screen? There's no other character remotely like him in the history of the movies. The film is essentially a character study about a man full of contradictions, and as such it plows uncharted territory. Stephen Lang embraces the contradictions and delivers a layered, thoroughly committed, intense performance as Stonewall Jackson. He can't be faulted. He's absolutely brilliant. I don't think I saw a more accomplished performance that year, the year before, or the year after. People used to go to the movies to see a great performance by a great actor. Well, this is one. And yet, as much as I hate to say it, I think Stephen Lang is part of the problem with GODS AND GENERALS. He's not miscast, but audiences don't warm up to him. The film needed a different actor at the center of the storm; Harrison Ford could have pulled it off, or perhaps Dennis Quaid.

 

I don't mind the long speeches in GODS AND GENERALS because the dialog isn't invented. It isn't made up. These are documented words, the actual words. The poetry that comes through is -- or rather was -- for real.  Robert Duvall, who plays Robert E. Lee in the film, has been quoted more than once saying that the western is America's Shakespeare. I understand what he means by that. It's true of Civil War films, too.

 

Whatever their missteps, GETTYSBURG and GODS AND GENERALS are a soulful bounding leap in historical films about America. They set the highest standard for historical films.


Edited by Richard--W, July 06 2013 - 11:54 AM.


#31 of 32 OFFLINE   David_B_K

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Posted July 07 2013 - 08:32 AM

 Stephen Lang embraces the contradictions and delivers a layered, thoroughly committed, intense performance as Stonewall Jackson. He can't be faulted. He's absolutely brilliant. I don't think I saw a more accomplished performance that year, the year before, or the year after. People used to go to the movies to see a great performance by a great actor. Well, this is one. And yet, as much as I hate to say it, I think Stephen Lang is part of the problem with GODS AND GENERALS. He's not miscast, but audiences don't warm up to him. The film needed a different actor at the center of the storm; Harrison Ford could have pulled it off, or perhaps Dennis Quaid.

 

 

Richard, I do not think Stephen Lang is a problem at all. The problem is with Stonewall Jackson. The more in-depth one gets with Jackson, the less likeable he is as a character. On the surface, Jackson is impressive. His ability to move his men quickly was virtually unmatched in the Civil War. His use of interior lines in his Shenandoah Valley Campaing recalls young Napoleon Bonaparte's first Italian campaign. However, he was peculiar and eccentric to the point of neurosis.

 

Jackson constantly brought other officers up on charges. The film Gettysburg covers a little of Jackson's charges agains Richard B. Garnett. Jackson charged Garnett with neglect of duty for retreating in a battle in which he was greatly outnumbered. Impending campaigns and Jackson's death robbed Garnett of the chance to state his case at a court martial. Garnett is thus portrayed in Gettysburg as determined to clear his name regardless of the danger to himself.

 

Jackson had likewise accused A.P. Hill of dereliction of duty. Hill wanted a court of inquiry to clear his name as well, but Lee did not have time for such foolishness. Jackson was creating rifts in the command IMO by constantly charging talented generals with dereliction of duty; and Garnett and Hill were not the only ones (one is shown in Gods & Generals).

 

Jackson did not like to march on Sunday, which he regarded as a sabbath day. Thus, he started late when called to join Lee for the beginning of the Seven Days Battles. When Jackson arrived, he had pushed himself to the point of total exhaustion. The Seven Days campaign as devised by Lee required some complex maneuvers. Throughout the campaign, Jackon failed to perform. He failed to be where he was supposed to be, and he failed to attack in a timely manner. Now, battle fatigue happens in war, and I cannot fault Jackson for succumbing to its effects. But when one reads a biography of the man, and sees how he preferred charges against other men for doing no worse than himself, he comes off as petty and vindictive. Had someone more "likeable" played Jackson, they would not have been true to the character, IMO. I can only applaud Stephen Lang for having the courage to portray the real man.

 

After reading several biographies of Jackson, I could not find it in myself to really like the man. This brings me back to Maxwell's mistake in making Gods & Generals essentially a Jackson biography. As I said earlier, Shaara's novel was split between 4 characters. Had Maxwell followed the novel more, he could have kept the audience's interest by the variety of characters. I think Jackson fatigue would have been avoided by such an approach. As a history buff, I quite enjoy the film. However, I can see why some would find it long and long-winded. It's still a very good film about Stonewall Jackson and some Civil War battles. It's just not really an adaptation of the novel Gods and Generals.



#32 of 32 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted July 10 2013 - 05:36 AM

I appreciate the discourse on Stonewall Jackson. I'd read the biographies if there weren't so many other things on my plate.

 

I don't wish to be insistent on the matter of casting, but ... although Stephen Lang is a respected actor he is not a box-office attraction. Nor did GODS AND GENERALS make him a box-office attraction. Turner and Maxwell cast the actor whom they felt deserved the role, but the film needed a star who could sell the character to an audience and sell the film at the box-office. Lang is brilliant, but he treads heavily. Someone with a lighter touch, like Harrison Ford or Dennis Quaid, could have played Stonewall Jackson the way Anthony Hopkins played Hannibal Lector. Movies about unlikable characters have become hits before.

 

Love the film, in any case.


Edited by Richard--W, July 10 2013 - 05:38 AM.





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