radioessays.com

Janis Jaquith
janis@radioessays.com
592 words

GODS 'N' GENERALS

It's a movie about the Civil War, and it takes place in Virginia, so I thought: Why not give it a whirl? Turns out, it felt more like a hitch in the Confederate Army -- and desertion was definitely an option.

"Gods and Generals" is the prequel to "Gettysburg." This is the part where I should summarize the plot, but since I was unable to find a plot, suffice it to say that there was a whole lot of shooting going on and Stonewall Jackson dies in the end.

To put this in perspective, you should know that my favorite movie is "Chicago" -- I've seen it five times. Fast paced, lots of singing and dancing, and it's all over in 2 hours. The only thing it has in common with "Gods and Generals" is that they're both about killing people.

The thing about "Gods and Generals" is you don't have to wait very long to know that it's a real stinker. (And forgive me, Civil War scholars. I'm sure that "Gods and Generals" is a stellar documentary about the recent unpleasantness, but, Oh. My. God. -- as entertainment it is as deadly the Battle of the Wilderness.)

You know how, at the end of "Gone With the Wind," the actors get real dramatic, with hands over hearts, as the music swells to a crescendo?

"Gods and Generals" STARTS OFF like this, and those scenes that are orchestrated to look, tantalizingly, like the end of the movie are strung one right after the other.

Anyway, two hours into this movie (which lasts for nearly FOUR HOURS -- I kid you not) there's an intermission.

So I stroll down the hallway -- to get the blood moving through my brain again -- I pass another auditorium. Music comes drifting through the doorway and I hear "Come on babe, why don't we paint the town -- and all that jazz."

The siren song of "Chicago," reaches out into the hallway and pulls me into the darkness.

I'll just stand inside the doorway until intermission is over. And what a relief! Like "Gods and Generals," "Chicago" offers guns and blood and death, but what a difference in packaging!

Minutes pass. I ask myself: Is there anything in "Gods and Generals" that makes me want to find out what's next?

Oh, I don't think so.

I settle into a seat at the back of the theater and sing along with the merry murderesses. (Maybe that's what "Gods and Generals" needs: a snappy, sing-along score.)

Knowing that Civil War purgatory is just down the hall makes my enjoyment of "Chicago" -- even on the fifth go-'round -- boundless. I'm a giddy Civil-War deserter, and I could not be happier.

When the credits for "Chicago" are rolling, I slink down the hall and slip back into "Gods and Generals." Is it over yet? No: Like a bad dream, the nightmare persists. There was Stonewall Jackson, in all his toupeed splendor, at last approaching death.

Now, it's just possible that I missed all the good stuff by deserting and running off to Chicago.

Yeah, right.

In case you'd like to enlist for a screening of "Gods and Generals," it won't be long before the DVD is out -- featuring the SIX-HOUR director's cut. Count me out. I'll watch "Chicago" three more times, instead.


Copyright ©2017, Janis Jaquith. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission prohibited. http://www.radioessays.com/essays/godsngenerals/