"Gods And Generals" is the prelude to Ronald Maxwell’s own "Gettyburg," although it was made long after the latter film. It tells the story of the Civil War from its outbreak all the way up to the point where "Gettysburg" picks up the storyline. Many of the characters are seen here in earlier stages of the war – some of them cast with the same actors, no less, giving the two films a very strong cohesiveness. The production is equally epic with large scale battles, impressive sets and a massive cast, featuring thousands of extras, set against the lush countryside and bloody battlefields.
The film starts as we see many of the characters that will ultimately also decide the end of the war prepare to join the army. We see them leave their families behind, getting a stronger feeling for whose these people were. Gradually we witness as both sides ramp up their efforts and eventually clash head-on in Virginia. From there the movie shows us the struggles, the pain, the price that has been paid by these men. Emotional, yet never melodramatic, it is a powerful and moving film that is bringing to life some of the quintessential moments of the Civil War.
Warner Home Video is presenting "Gods And Generals" in a widescreen transfer that is enhanced for 16x9 TV sets. The image is absolutely clean and free of blemishes of any sort. With is incredible level of detail, the presentation is wonderful to behold, as it perfectly restores the movie’s production and cinematography. Every leaf, ever hint of the subtle mists and fogs, every button on the uniforms and every single hair in the wooly beards is meticulously been put onto the screen. The color reproduction is also very impressive, nicely reproducing the film’s lush backdrops with saturated, vibrant colors and natural skin tones. Black levels are very good, giving the image plenty of visual depth. No distracting edge-enhancement is noticeable and the compression has been handled masterfully, making sure all image details remain intact.
The DVD comes with a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital audio track that is equally impressive. A wide frequency response with solid basses and clear high ends makes sure to bring across the feverish battle scenes with a wide sound field and engrossing surround usage. The dynamic range also ensure proper reproduction of the energetic scenes, as well as more subtle moments with lots of ambient noises.
Subtitles in English, French and Spanish are supplied on the DVD to complement the audio presentation.
The 219-minute movie has been spread over two sides of this DVD-18 to make sure the quality remains as high as possible throughout, and to accommodate some bonus features, such as a feature-length commentary track by director/writer Ronald Maxwell and two historical advisors on the movie. Needless to say that this commentary track is a treasure trove of information regarding both the production of the movie and the historic events and characters it depicts. While one would think it is hard for any commentator to bridge such a massive amount of time, Maxwell and his co-commentators, Gibson and Robertson, do it with ease, always finding exciting tidbits to talk about.
An introduction by Ted Turner is also included on the release, as well three featurettes about the making of the movie. Focusing on three very different aspects of the movie and the time it depicts, these featurettes cover the role of slaves in the Civil War, a portrait of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, and the authentic recreation of events in the movie from a production standpoint. All three are exceedingly interesting and informative, giving the viewer a lot of additional information that is beyond the scope of the actual film.
You will also find two music videos on the DVD, one for Bob Dylan’s somber "Cross The Green Mountain" and the other for Mary Fahl’s "Going Home, both of them featuring footage form the film. A nice addition to the release is "Visit Virginia," a promotional TV spot for the state of Virginia to attract tourists, as well as the movie’s theatrical trailer.
"Gods And Generals" is a fabulous release in many ways. It is a wonderful movie that captivates through its rich characters, the wonderful production and its authenticity. At the same time, this DVD offers some extremely valuable extras that take the experience far beyond the movie itself. Especially the commentary track, but also the featurettes, offer more detailed insight into some topics that are covered in the film only as part of the storyline but have much more importance when observed on their own merits. The technical quality of the DVD is also top notch, making "Gods And Generals" a must-own for anyone remotely interested in American history. Fans of the film, or "Gettysburg" for that matter, simply won’t be able to do without this DVD version.