Gods, generals can't save film from bad press

March 04, 2003|by TIM ROWLAND

I'll be honest with you, I'm not real big on epic movies, so as of this writing I have yet to see "Gone With the Generals," the Civil War film that opened Feb. 21 and is still running in area theaters.

And when I say "still running," I'm talking about the first showing, which, counting intermissions, isn't expected to end until roughly the time Pioneer 10 flies past the Crab Nebula.

Look, four hours isn't a movie, four hours is a deep-sea fishing trip. I want to look at the bright side. G&G is a stellar value - considering the price of a ticket, it will only cost you $1.87 an hour, while most films will run you $3.75.

Ron Maxwell and Dennis Frye poured their hearts into this show, and I'm proud of them. But man, trying to sell the public on the laurels of historical accuracy and education is like trying to sell tofu to a tiger.


We don't have shows called "Education Tonight" and "Education Weekly." There's no movie called "That's Education." The E! Channel does not stand for Education, exclamation point.

But the "Entertainment!" world has spoken out on G&G with a single word, and that single word is "Yuk!"

"Gods" Awful - New York Post.

"Gods" is an Epic Failure - Boston Globe.

Civil Disservice - San Diego Times Union.

Oh God!: Turner's Civil War epic will need many prayers to prevent financial bloodbath - Toronto Sun.

A Grand Epic, But Proves Pointless - The Hartford Courant.

'Gods' is nothing to worship - Christian Science Monitor.

Dude, when the Christian Science Monitor hates your guts, you've got problems. Of course, these are mostly all northern newspapers. We have yet to hear from the Christian Science Merrimack.

The Christians don't cut us any slack and neither do the Mormons. This from the Salt Lake Tribune, under the headline, "Gods and Generals? Try Confederacy of Dunces"

"'Gods and Generals' is an epic disaster ... a(n) exercise in theater endurance (3 hours, 40 minutes) is a disgrace to the leaders who fought the war, who come off as one-dimensional, living statues spewing banal, pious speeches about the morality of war."

But the beards. After the "Gettysburg" debacle, they at least got the beards right this time, yes?

Well, no. "(Stephen) Lang ... acts with a deer-in-the-headlights visage. His fake beard, which looks like a giant wad of steel wool, doesn't help."

Oh well.

But what do people want? Do they ever stop to think that maybe the Civil War leaders actually WERE one dimensional, living statues who spewed pious speeches about the morality of war? I mean Stonewall Jackson was no well-adjusted John Boy Walton, if you know what I'm saying. You put the Stonewall and Dan Rather in the same room and say "pick out the normal one" and look who you're going to end up with.

G&G was drummed at the box office the first weekend, with a $4.7 million gross, good only for eighth place, four spots beneath, gulp, "Jungle Book II." That ain't good for a film that cost $90 million to make and promote. (That makes me wonder, for a $90 million effort, why was Washington County's paltry $250,000 loan a half-dozen years ago so confounded critical? That's not even seed money. More like spore money.)

But yes, by the time this makes it into print I will have walked into the theater, much as the federal troops walked into a wall of lead at Fredericksburg, not out of a sense of willingness, but out of a sense of duty.

And you know me - I'll just bet that after I see it, I'll have an idea or two to really perk up ticket sales. Stay tuned.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. You may reach him at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, fax him at 301-714-0245 or e-mail him at

The Herald-Mail Articles