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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Gods and Generals (2003)

Gods and Generals (2003)

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Released 3-Dec-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category War Main Menu Audio
Introduction-Ted Turner
Audio Commentary-Ron Maxwell (Director) And Historians
Music Video-Cross The Green Mountain - Bob Dylan
Music Video-Going Home - Mary Fahl
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-A Journey To The Past
Featurette-The Authenticities Of The Film
Featurette-The Life Of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson
TV Spots-Visit Virginia
DVD-ROM Extras
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 210:13
RSDL / Flipper FLIPPER (108:01)Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Ronald F. Maxwell

Warner Home Video
Starring Jeff Daniels
Mark Aldrich
Stephen Lang
George Allen
Robert Duvall
Keith Allison
Mira Sorvino
Royce D. Applegate
Kevin Conway
C. Thomas Howell
Matt Letscher
Mac Butler
Frankie Faison
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Bob Dylan
Randy Edelman
John Frizzell

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    "Let us cross the river...and rest under the shade of the trees."

    As far as famous last words go, these are apparently right up there with the very best. They are the words of the much loved and respected Confederate general Thomas J. Jackson, better known to millions as Stonewall Jackson, which he uttered on his deathbed just before he succumbed to pneumonia. Why is this important? Well, General Stonewall Jackson (played by Stephen Lang) is a pivotal character in this epic film about the early years of the American Civil War - 1861 to 1863.

    Gods and Generals is the prequel to the 1993 film Gettysburg and is again directed by Ronald F. Maxwell with the picture funded by Ted Turner. Whereas Gettysburg focused solely on the famous three-day battle that claimed the lives of some 50,000 soldiers and came to be seen as a pivotal moment in turning the tide of the Civil War, Gods and Generals is far more wide-reaching. The story opens with Virginians preparing to secede from the Union and the offer of command to respected General Robert E. Lee (Robert Duvall this time round and not Martin Sheen who played him in Gettysburg) of the Union forces. It is an offer the staunch Virginian declines, because his first allegiance is to Virginia and her people, so he returns to the south and takes command of the Confederate army, a role he will stay with until the very end of the war.

    The first battle of Manassas (or Bull Run as it was known in the North) became the first major skirmish of the war and is the first major battle of three that forms the main plot of Gods and Generals (the other two being Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville). It was at Manassas that Thomas Jackson earned his famous Stonewall nickname. Jackson was a devoutly religious man and quotes many passages from the Bible before battle. He believes in God and fate, and that he and his men will die when God decides. The cause of the southerners was so great and sacred in his mind that he was able to invoke an almost religious certitude on his men. Many regiments fell in this early battle, but Jackson's held firm and helped the south win the first encounter.

    In between the three battles, we have (in a running time of nearly four hours) many long, wordy, erudite, overblown and generally boring monologues from many a righteous passage delivered by people who obviously liked the sound of their own voices. Strangely, even the African-American slaves (of which there are only two principal characters in the whole film) speak like this, and it just becomes a little difficult to handle at times. We sure have become far more efficient in our use of the English language if this method of communication was commonplace in the 1860s. It must have taken a long time to ask for something in those days.

    There are a few similarities to the earlier Gettysburg film, despite the ten years between filming. Jeff Daniels reprises his role as Union Lt. Col. Joshua Chamberlain, while his younger brother is again played by C. Thomas Howell. A few other characters are familiar from the early film, but the major difference here (apart from some improved production values) is that the focus has been shifted completely away from the Union or Northern side to the Confederate or Southern side. The Yankees are painted early on as a bunch of bumbling fools who would rather rape, loot  and pillage, while the southerners are portrayed as cultured, urbane, devout, and honourable people fighting for a just cause. If it was released in 1863 this film would be called propaganda. Nowadays, I'm not sure if there is a name for it.

   The battle scenes are mostly spectacular with hundreds (if not thousands) of re-enactors taking part to add a high level of authenticity to the whole thing. Some of the CGI work on the battlefields, particularly the wide shots of the long columns of men, and a couple of the matte paintings of the towns being invaded look a little cheap to my mind. Fans of military history will no doubt love every minute of this.

    The closing scenes have the armies of both north and south converging on a small Pennsylvanian town in July 1863. This is of course where the battle of Gettysburg will be fought which is the subject of the first film in the trilogy.

    Fans of both Gettysburg and Gods and Generals may be interested to know that these are actually the first two parts of a civil war trilogy. Ronald F. Maxwell makes a fleeting reference to the third instalment during the commentary track hoping that he will be involved in its making. It is to be called Last Full Measure.

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Transfer Quality


    With the original Gettysburg only being available with an NTSC transfer, it is nice to see that what we get here is the proper PAL disc for the prequel. This really is a rather nice transfer with basically no faults to identify.

    Presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, this transfer is also 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is extremely sharp and incredibly detailed throughout, with no evidence of any edge enhancement. Shadow detail is handled very well and grain is virtually non-existent. There is no low-level noise. As far as clarity goes, this transfer is the real deal.

    Colours are sensational. Every shade of blue and grey is easily differentiated on the uniforms of both Confederate and Yankee. Every bright colour on the many varied flags in the battle scenes are eye-catching and bright. Skin tones are well rendered and the blacks are as deep and as true as they can be. There are no problems with bleeding or oversaturation.

    I saw no MPEG artefacts. Being a new film, I hoped there would be few, if any, film artefacts. I was not disappointed, as this is a very clean and near-pristine transfer in that regard, with only an extremely small handful of small white specks scattered here and there.

    There are several subtitle options. I sampled the English for the Hearing Impaired track. They are mostly accurate and well positioned on screen, and even keep up with some of the 'wordier' speeches from some of the generals.

    This is a dual-layered dual-sided disc but I was not able to spot a layer change on either side. The disc flip-over point occurs at 108:01 and is a little disruptive in its positioning, especially as you have to actually get out of your seat to change the disc over, and it's right in the middle of the battle of Fredericksburg.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    You've got to love war and battle films to get the speaker system, especially the subwoofer, up and running and earning their keep. This one is a corker.

    There are three audio soundtracks on this disc, with the first two being an English and a German Dolby Digital 5.1 effort encoded at a bitrate of 384 Kb/s. Rounding out the selection is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 commentary track. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track was my choice of listening for the main film and this really is a first-rate soundtrack. There's plenty of punch from the low end when needed, heaps of dynamic range, and beautiful use of the front soundstage for directional effects. Surround effects are used to maximum impact during the many battle scenes and to hear the musket and cannon fire and other assorted artillery flying overhead makes your hair literally stand on end.

    The dialogue is full of some very difficult to comprehend southern American accents coupled with some incredibly wordy and eloquent speeches. You might not be able to keep up with it all, so the subtitles are an often handy aid. There are also no audio sync discrepancies to report.

    Just as Randy Edelman's score for Gettysburg was quite rousing if perhaps a little strident, this one is also rather inspiring, but perhaps a little more subdued.

    There are plenty of decent surround effects that spring to life during the many battle scenes.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio


    Mogul Ted Turner pops up for a brief 3:02 minute introduction to the film. He discusses his love of Civil War history, and his earlier attempts to bring some of these stories to film.

Audio Commentary

    The audio commentary offered here does not run for the entire duration of the film, but just like the one contained on the Gettysburg disc, it offers commentary on selected scenes only. This sort of makes extremely good sense, rather than having the director ramble on for several minutes over a scene that simply does not need any explanation. What we get is a concise, well thought-out commentary where the speakers only discuss the bits that they felt really needed discussing.

    The commentary is by director Ronald Maxwell and two Civil War historical advisors, in Keith Gibson of Virginia Military Institute and James I. Robertson from Virginia Tech. They offer much in the way of historical context and explanation and avoid just repeating what is occurring on the screen at the time. Educational and worthwhile, if perhaps a little biased towards the southerners.

    The commentary on disc one runs for 40:21, while disc two runs for 44:28.

Music Video - Cross The Green Mountain (Bob Dylan)

    A fairly uninspiring song from Bob Dylan as he's pictured here getting about in a silly hat and coat, looking like an 1860s balladeer. Runs for 3:16.

Music Video - Going Home (Mary Fahl)

    A smooth, melodic ballad with heaps of Irish influence here from Mary Fahl. It runs for 4:02 and is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with lots of film images thrown in for good measure.

Theatrical Trailer

    A pretty short trailer, this one only runs for 1:39, but it is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is complete with 16x9 enhancement.

Featurette-Behind The Scenes

    Called A Journey To The Past, this is a 22:02 behind-the-scenes style of featurette hosted by director Ronald Maxwell and actor Donzaleigh Abernathy, who plays the slave Martha in the film. They take us through the various aspects of the film, its historical relevance, and introduce many of the actors that played important characters. It's a little self-promotional, but there are some interesting behind-the-camera shots.

Featurette - The Authenticities Of The Film

    A 12:56 look at the painstaking efforts the crew went to in order to make things as historically accurate as possible. The locations, the costumes, the make-up, and other general bits of production design are discussed here.

Featurette - The Life Of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson

    A 14:31 featurette that delves into the life of Stonewall Jackson. Various history buffs and academics are interviewed, offering their thoughts on this deeply religious man and the impact he had on the Civil War. Quite interesting, but whoever filmed the interviews needed a tripod. There is an ever-increasing amount of camera shake that becomes quite distracting after a few minutes.

TV Spots - Visit Virginia

    A 34 second tourism promotion spot for the state of Virginia.

DVD-ROM Extras

    Pop the disc in a DVD-ROM drive and Interactual Player will fire up, displaying links to the official website at and other Warner sites.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    From the information I am able to obtain, it appears the Region 1 disc is almost identical to this one save for two minor soundtrack differences. The Region 1 only contains the English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and this is reported to be encoded at the superior bitrate of 448 Kb/s. The region 4 disc of course contains both English and German Dolby Digital soundtracks encoded at the lower bitrate of 384 Kb/s.


    Gods and Generals is the prequel to the 1993 epic Gettysburg. It recounts the period of the American Civil War between 1861 and 1863. It offers a much stronger perspective from the Southern or Confederate side than was offered in Gettysburg. It might come across as a little one-sided as a result if watched as a stand-alone film, but does become more balanced if viewed with the earlier offering.

    The disc presentation from Warner Home Video is first-class. Superbly coloured, artefact free 16x9 enhanced video, complete with a rip-roaring, bone crunching soundtrack that will maximise use of all six speakers in your home theatre.

    The extras are also plentiful.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Friday, December 05, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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