Ron Maxwell continues his historical conquests ten years after his TNT production of Gettysburg with a prequel in terms of chronology, Gods and Generals.The Civil War epic, collecting up a 220-minute running time, with an added 12-minute intermission explodes onto the screen with the effect of an overblown PBS (or in this case perhaps, TNT) production. Staggeringly long staging sequences, historical ABCs resulting in plodding plot, cardboard acting, speech-y oratorical dialogue, etc. No doubt the ambition of such a project and the length at which accuracy is researched and depicted are commendable, its scale is something at which only the history scholar and buff is going to appreciate. Reaction different to that will only be of tedium, boredom. Maxwell is so “old style” in his cinematic approach, inserting the materials and values of Gone with the Wind in an era far adapted from that. I do not mean to say that such an homage is a waste of effort, but one does not get the impression that Maxwell’s route-of-choice was out of necessity; the film — if truly designated as a piece of cinema and not a television production plopped into the moviehouses — is made that way because he so chooses. And so I must admit that at the 90-minute mark, I saw no reason to stay in mental pain any longer, and allowed the physical pain to cause me to walk out. It might not have allowed me much time to be introduced to the POV of the North, though from what I saw and what I’ve heard, the movie predominantly unfolds in the one-sidedness of the South; and though it hardly began to give screen time to the endless battles, the long sequences I did see — lots of death, reloading gunpowder, firing, bodies dropping, repeat and so on — I couldn’t have felt as though it were necessary for the accuracy of the movie to need to show each and every individual death that was fought during the war. Taking short cuts out of history can often be cause for misinterpretation or a botched lesson, but to go so far unabridged cannot dream of sustaining its storytelling abilities. I wouldn’t call it normal laziness, but I would call it an over-ambitious laziness.
With Stephen Lang, Jeff Daniels, Robert Duvall, and Mira Sorvino.[Not to be bothered with.]