New on Blu-ray Book: Gods and Generals (2003)/Gettysburg (1993)

Set to commemorate the 150th anniversary of America’s first and only Civil War, Warner Home Video is set to re-release the Award-winning war films “Gods and Generals” and “Gettysburg” on Blu-ray Book format for the first time on May 24, 2011. “Gods and Generals” has been previously released in Blu-ray, while the 1993 “Gettysburg” will be getting the Blu-ray treatment for the very first time. Both films were directed by Robert Maxwell, who directed “Gettysburg” in 1993, before returning to the same hallowed grounds of America’s bloodiest “feud” 10 years later for the much more ambitious “Gods and Generals”.


Gettysburg: Directors Cut is Maxwell’s acclaimed film about the legendary 3-day battle and will be available for the first time on Blu-ray, featuring 17 minutes of compelling additional footage.

Filmed at actual battle locations and full of authentic details, this rousing and soulful movie plunges the viewer into the bloodiest battle fought on American soil. History comes alive with intense and spirited battles and the dilemmas, motivations and fears of the leaders. Tom Berenger (Inception), Jeff Daniels, Martin Sheen (TV’s “West Wing”) and Stephen Lang star in this gripping film based on Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning book, “The Killer Angels.”

Although it came 10 years before “Gods and Generals” in 2003, Robert Maxwell’s 1993 film “Gettysburg” actually takes place after the events of “Generals”. The nearly four-hour film (yes, I said nearly four hours — best get comfy on that couch) stars a huge ensemble cast, with one of its main focus being Union soldier Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels), a former Professor turned soldier. The film follows him as he prepares for, and then jumps feet-first into the Battle of Gettysburg, the most decisive battle of the American Civil War. His unorthodox defense of Little Round Top marks one of the turning points of the battle, all of it powered by a powerful performance from Daniels. I have to say, this might very well be his finest work. Unless, of course, you’re thinking “Dumb and Dumber”.

With four hours to play with, and only one single (albeit very important) battle to focus on, “Gettysburg” is probably as authentic as you can possibly get without actually hopping into a time machine and going back to 1863. The film boasts excellent production values, along with a cadre of committed actors and extras in the thousands. Fought over three days, Gettysburg remains the single largest and bloodiest pitched battle of the Civil War, and effectively shredded the army of General Robert E. Lee (played by a not-always convincing Martin Sheen, which is to say, he’s wholly unconvincing as the South’s greatest military leader). Some believed that had Lee won Gettysburg, it might have struck such a blow that the Union Army could never recover. I guess we’ll never know now.

But as authentic as the film is, and as painstaking as the events are re-enacted (and let me assure you, Maxwell and company have gone beyond the call of duty to get every little detail just right), “Gettysburg” is probably a little too clean in terms of war carnage. This isn’t “Saving Private Ryan”, or even Roland Emmerich’s ridiculous “The Patriot”, so don’t expect to see CGI cannonballs ripping apart limbs and heads. Much of the film’s focus is on getting things right, and unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your stomach for war violence), that doesn’t include painting the battlefields a gory red. If you can get past that, though, “Gettysburg” is one incredible war film, possibly the best Civil War movie ever made.

Besides Daniels, the film also features excellent performances from Tom Berenger, Sam Elliott, and a pre-“Avatar” Stephen Lang.

Special Features:

  • Commentary by Ronald F. Maxwell, Kees Van Oostrum, James M. McPherson, and Craig Symonds
  • The Making of Gettysburg, Narrated by Martin Sheen
  • The Battle of Gettysburg, Narrated by Leslie Nielson
  • On Location
  • Maps of the Battlefield
  • Ron Maxwell’s Invitation to Take the Journey Through Hallowed Ground (NEW)

Buy “Gettysburg” on Blu-ray Book from Warner Home Video May 24, 2011.


“Gods and Generals”

Gods and Generals Extended Director’s Cut is director Ron Maxwell’s newly re-edited 4-hour- 40-minute version, with one hour of new footage added, including amplified scenes and new subplot, never-before-seen footage and new bonus features.

Reedited from beginning to end with expanded scenes and an added subplot, this all-new 2-Disc Extended Director’s Cut — a prequel to Maxwell’s companion film, Gettysburg — restores his original vision of the fierce allegiances and combat during the early American Civil War. From Jeffrey M. Shaara’s best seller, this commemorative release adds the story of actor and future Presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth, newly integrated throughout the narrative. Also, the Battle of Antietam is now included, along with the fateful clashes at Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, plus camp life scenes. Oscar winners Robert Duvall (Tender Mercies) and Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite) star along with Jeff Daniels (Good Night and Good Luck), Stephen Lang (Avatar) and Bruce Boxleitner (TRON:Legacy) in this magnificent film.

A prequel of sorts to writer/director Ron Maxwell’s “Gettysburg”, “Gods and Generals” sees Maxwell continuing his fascination with the American Civil War, this time covering the years leading up to the Battle of Gettysburg. Unlike “Gettysburg”, “Gods and Generals” has a couple of years to play with, and as a result the film is free to cover more than just one battle, with the most important engagements including the battles of Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. This is both a blessing and a curse. The upside is that we get to see more territory covered; the downside is less laser-like focus on the strategies of the battles themselves.

As with “Gettysburg”, Maxwell’s painstaking attention to detail and authenticity is to be marveled at and appreciated, and no doubt Civil War buffs will think they’ve died and gone to Heaven. Actors from “Gettysburg” return (which is an odd thing to say, since they’re essentially playing younger versions of the characters they previously played, though everyone is now, well, 10 years older in real life), including Jeff Daniels as Union Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, while Robert Duvall saddles up as Confederate Robert E. Lee, more than ably replacing the poorly cast Martin Sheen from “Gettysburg”. Stephen Lang also returns, though as a completely new character, this time as Confederate General Stonewall Jackson.

Despite its length (over four hours long), “Gods and Generals” is a fascinating movie, even if you don’t consider yourself a Civil War buff, which I do not. I could have done without Ted Turner’s cameo, though. I get it, he footed the bill, but seeing someone so anachronistic show up out of nowhere really ruined the moment for me. Fortunately, the rest of the film is strong enough to withstanding even Little Ted’s appearance. I won’t tell you that “Gods and Generals” is a flawless movie, but if you’ve ever been fascinated by the Civil War, or want to get as close to the real thing as possible, you won’t find a better movie. Just be prepared to spend a lot of time.

“Gods and Generals”, like “Gettysburg” before it, should be seen as part documentary, part movie, and all fascinating.

Special Features:

  • Commentary with Ron Maxwell, Keith Gibson and Professor James Robertson
  • Extended Cut Commentary with Maxwell, Gibson and Robertson (NEW)
  • Introduction by Ted Turner and Ron Maxwell (NEW)
  • Gods & Generals: Journey to the Past
  • The Life of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson
  • The Authenticities of the Film
  • Cross the Green Mountain – Music Video by Bob Dylan
  • Ron Maxwell’s Invitation to Take the Journey Through Hallowed Ground (NEW)

Buy “Gods and Generals” on Blu-ray Book from Warner Home Video May 24, 2011.