Worth A Look: 9.72%
Pretty Bad: 13.89%
Total Crap: 44.44%
3 reviews, 54 user ratings
|Gods and Generals
I expected this film to be boring and pedestrian, reflecting the lack of taste of its prime sponsor, Ted Turner. What I didn't expect is a highly varnished piece of nouveau-Klan Krap, the latest in a long series of bleatings from the New South about the purity of the intentions of our antediluvian ancestors.I must disclose that I am myself of the south, born in Jackson, Mississippi, and raised in Louisiana and east Texas. And if there is any philosophical point of view which I can't stand, it's the revisionist, sancitimonious crap that modern Southerners spew endlessly about the Late Unpleasantness and the Glorious Cause. I've heard that Ku Klux Krap all my life, and I am getting damned tired of putting up with it.
"Not just a bad movie, it's F***ING EVIL"
The war wasn't about slavery, they'll tell you with their hands on their hearts and a straight face, but about State's Rights. (You can hear them pronounce the capital letters when they say it.) Yeah, to quote Dorothy Parker, and I am Marie of Romania.
I suppose I should also mention the technical aspects of this production before I go after its historical lying, but that shouldn't take too long.
The film covers the first half of the Civil War focusing (to the extent that its rambling, incoherent script can be said to focus on anything at all) on Stonewall Jackson's career up to his death, just before Gettysburg. It covers it for four interminable hours (with a six hour challenge to the kidneys still to come, courtesy of the DVD), which is about three hours and fifty-eight minutes too long.
The talent involved is as miniscule as the resources squandered were tremendous. Thousands of extras (Civil War re-enactors) clash in huge battle scenes, for which the makers of this piece of shit pride themselves on the accuracy of their props, their costumes, and such.
It's a pity that their care for fact extends ONLY to the physical aspects, and stopped completely when they got to the dialog, acting, and any other aspect of the film that required human judgment, taste, or talent. Like, say, historical context.
The actors inhabit their roles like waxworks, but from a shabby and low-rent wax museum.
Some misplaced praise has been given to Stephen Lang for his portrayal of Stonewall Jackson, who plays him as a god-obsessed man in tune with a larger vision. However, I see no sign of the historical Jackson, who was a nut with a superb ability to know where to put his cannon and infantry to cause the maximum damage to the enemy, and a complete indifference to the fate of his men. Additionally, I have problems with a performance in which the actor spends the entire movie with what looks like a ferret attached to his lower face.
Oh, yeah, the beards. Aside from its length, the film is distinguished by the fakest beards you ever saw. If, that is, you never saw "Gettysburg," the previous film by director Ron Maxwell. That was actually a decent movie, but it had been filmed, as "Gods and Generals" was, for TV, and then given a theatrical release. When blown up for a theatrical screen, the fake beards were very noticeable. Well, they didn't learn anything from that, and the same problem is duplicated here.
I think I've figured out a reason, though. It might be an artistic shorthand. The fuller and bushier the beard, the more pious and honorable the Southern generals are meant to be. Or maybe it's a Freudian thing, and they're making subtle reference to the endowment and manliness of their Southern heroes. Or maybe I was right the first time, and the entire crew was attacked by horny ferrets who were trying to face-fuck them, and they chose to ignore it. That's something damnably wrong, anyway, about a film so boring and long that it gives you the time and inclination to think such things.
So much for "Gods and Generals" as a film.
Now let's take a look under the hood at the attitudes it's selling.
First of all, early on it is explained (by a Southerner) that the Yankee Republicans are fighting for profit, while the South is fighting for its homes. Almost never is heard a discouraging word about slavery, except for some general comments from Jeff Daniels that slavery is wrong--which comes an hour and a half into the film. Many people might sleep through this dialog, at that point.
The thing is, if you're making an historical film, you have some responsibility to get the history right. By taking out the slavery (there are only two black speaking parts in the film, and none of the noble waxwork generals ever rails against the "subhuman darkies," as Jackson was recorded as doing on one occasion), the film buys in to the Southern myth that the war wasn't about slavery.
Blacks are not shown using the war to escape their slavery--which had become a huge logistical problem to the northern armies just six months into the war. Their numbers were so huge, it surprised both sides. We are shown noble black servants, content in their servitude, praying and shaking hands with massa as he goes off to war. Yes, and if you give those darkies some watermelon, dey'll pick all de cotton you want.
Runaway slaves might have presented at least one jolting scene, in that Jackson's army caught one just before the battle of Antietam, and hung him out of hand by the side of the road, as a warning to other slaves. Now, why do you suppose that wasn't in there?
What we got here is the spruced-up history of the war according to the generals' memoirs, taken at face value without the messy details we know from other evidence. All these Southern generals were acting completely at the behest of their honor, so they tell us (again and again and again). And they were, as we all know, honorable men.
The Southern generals are pious, polite, honorable, without exception. (It is implied there are Northerners who were exceptions.) And they believe their cause is just. But then, so does Al Queada. And if that doesn't give pause to the ahistorical yahoos (like Ted Turner) who insist on ennobling a rancid cause, I don't know what will.So you can see this to be bored, or you can see it to glorify and whitewash a bunch of pious, racist, old frauds who fought valiantly to hang on to a right to continue to treat people as property, and many of whose descendents are having a hard time admitting it. Go rent Ken Burns's "The Civil War."
link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=7057&reviewer=301
originally posted: 02/22/03 21:27:24