EDIT II: There have been a lot of updates since this was first published in November. Please visit the Civil War section for more up-to-date information. Thanks, Greg.
Gods and Generals is one of the greatest movies ever made about the Civil War, mainly because it did not conform to Hollywood standards and put forth a highly accurate depiction of the characters and events surrounding the first three years of the American Civil War. It includes many memorable scenes of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and his first Virginia brigade, the tragic battle of Fredericksburg that resulted in an embarrassing Union defeat, the triumphant Confederate victory at Chancellorsville, and finally, the sad, accidental death of Jackson at the hands of his own men.
The film is dramatic, humorous at times, and deeply saddening. The constant use of captions, which some call distracting, further enhance the accuracy of the film, as those who are not Civil War buffs can know what regiments are where, and what day of the battle it is.
But even with all that this film excels in, it is highly fragmented. The film was sent to theaters with the audience full-well knowing that this film is only a fraction of what was originally filmed. It was released with the intention of it appearing on TNT for a network airing following it’s DVD release a few months later, and then the following year, a full director’s cut of what Ronald F. Maxwell initially shot, a film project running around six hours, would be put out. Unfortunately, the film bombed at the theaters, and even sent Turner Pictures into bankruptcy (Ted Turner, who produced Gettysburg, the prequel, paid the entire $60 million budget for Gods and Generals out of his own pocket.)
With the film a monumental failure to everyone but Civil War enthusiasts, the thought of releasing this massive director’s cut was shelved indefinitely. But now, according to a source on IMDB, this cut of the film is now not only in talks, but is actually going to be released in 2011.
According to a poster, who was a student of James Robertson, a professor at Virginia Tech and a Civil War historian and scholar with ties to Maxwell, he emailed Robertson asking if this director’s cut story was true, after being tipped about it on another web-page. The response he got was as follows:
“(W)arner Bros. plans to release the unabridged edition of “Gods and Generals”
sometime in 2011. Later this month, director Ron Maxwell, Col. Keith
Gibson, and I will record a long commentary/conversation that will be an
extra on the DVD. The uncut version will not be shown in movies houses
because of its length (6+ hours). Rather, it will be available in a DVD
Even though the way this post is set up seems credible, I will still attach a “grain of salt” warning to this, but I am very happy about this, and hopefully am not being let by false hope. Gods and Generals was a film that had so much passion behind it, but one that was flawed because they cut this massive project down into just more than three hours.
The deleted scenes include the entire battle of Antietam, a sub-plot between John Wilkes Booth and Abraham Lincoln, a friendship between Booth and actor Henry T. Harrison, who served as a Confederate scout, and additional scenes in and throughout the film.
With 2011 being the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, I had been thinking earlier that if there was any time to release this film, these next five years would be it. I can only hope that this source is true, and that the email correspondence between he and Robertson is not fabricated. Gods and Generals is a film that can both entertain and educate, and it needs to be seen in it’s full six hour glory.
The entire cut of this film was only shown once, several years ago as part of a personal screening by Ron Maxwell. It ran well over five hours and upon it’s conclusion, it was met with a standing ovation. When released, Gods and Generals will be a treat for as all.