Gods and Generals
is the prequel to the 1994 film Gettysburg
. The film focuses on Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, from the outbreak of The American Civil War
until his death from friendly fire at Chancellorsville. It also features the back story for Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, who appeared in Gettysburg and is once again played by Jeff Daniels.
It was based on the novel of the same name by Jeff Shaara, who took over writing duties after the death of his father, Michael (from whose book The Killer Angels Gettysburg
As of 2012, two versions of the film are available to the public: the 3.5 hour version that was released in theaters in 2003 and the 5+ hour Extended Director's Cut that was released to 2011. Opinion varies on which one is better, but general consensus sides with the latter.
- Anyone Can Die: Truth in Television.
- Ascended Extra: Jackson's role in the film is greatly exaggerated over his importance in the book from which the film was adapted, taking away screen time from the much more central characters of Lee and Chamberlain.
- Backstory: To the characters who appear in Gettysburg but not the film's protagonist, Jackson, who dies.
- Billing Displacement: Jeff Daniels (Chamberlain) for the Theatrical Version; despite being the top-billed actor, Stephen Lang (Jackson) had far, far more screentime than him. In the director's cut, however, both characters get about an equal amount, and either one of them could be seen as the film's protagonist, so the trope is averted here.
- Boot Camp Episode: Part two of the Director's Cut (it's divided into 5 parts) laregly focuses on Chamberlain's basic training.
- California Doubling: Averted. The movie was filmed entirely on location in Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland.
- Chick Magnet: John Wilkes Booth in the Director's cut.
- Cultured Warrior: Chamberlain.
- Determinator: How Jackson gets his nickname.
- Epic Film
- A Father to His Men: Jackson
- Friend or Foe: How Jackson meets his end.
- Greek Chorus: John Wilkes Booth and Henry T. Harrison in the Director's Cut.
- Happily Married: Jackson and his wife, Chamberlain and his wife.
- Historical Hero Upgrade: Jackson is portrayed as favouring an eventual abolition of slavery in the South, for which there is no historical evidence. (The first Confederate general to suggest freeing slaves in order to have them fight against the Yankees was Patrick Cleburne, "the Stonewall of the West", in early 1864, when Jackson was long dead. And in real life, Jackson's cook was not a freeman, but a slave.
- Leeroy Jenkins: Some of the Rebel troops do this at Manassas. The Confederates under Stonewall Jackson arrive on the scene and a couple of young guys tell their company, "Come on, we can take 'em!" and charge the Union lines. The rest of the company follows, with the commander basically forced to order a charge retroactively. Looking on, Jackson remarks that "it's good to get your dander up", but correctly predicts the company will be slaughtered.
- Littlest Cancer Patient: Jackson's young friend Jane. She doesn't get better.
- Manly Tears: When little Jane dies, Jackson breaks down and weeps openly, not just for her, but for all the people he's seen die so far in the war; Jane simply happened to be the straw that broke the camel's back.
- Prequel: To Gettysburg
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Literally; it's based on actual events, so things like Jackson's death are inevitable.
- Real Men Love Jesus: Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson: devout Christian and genuine Four-Star Badass.
- Rule of Drama: In order to emphasise the tragedy of brother fighting brother, the number of Irishmen serving on the Confederate side is somewhat exaggerated - in actual fact the C.S.A. had company-sized Irish units, while the Northern Army of the Potomac had an Irish Brigade. As the film relates its story of Virginians successfully defending their homes against Northern invaders, the attempted invasion of the North in 1862, the defeat in the battle of Antietam (seen by many historians as the real turning point of the war) and Lincoln's subsequent Emancipation Proclamation are all left out, at least in the originally released version. The film in its original edition also minimizes the Unionist part of Virginia's population, e. g. that it was Virginian general Winfield Scott who had suggested to Lincoln to appoint Robert E. Lee as his field commander or that quite early in the war the western third of the state seceded from Virginia and later set itself up as the new state of West Virginia in support of Lincoln's government.
- Show Within a Show: The stage play scenes in the Director's Cut.
- Start of Darkness: John Wilkes Booth in the Director's Cut. At first, he simply hates Lincoln, as many in the South did. As the film progresses, however, he gradually begins indicating that he's toying with the idea of killing him personally.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Booth, insofar as he can be called a villain at this point in his life.
- War Is Hell: Applies to both versions, but this is more overt in the Director's Cut which included the Battle of Antietam, complete with some very grim shots of the aftermath.
- Worthy Opponent: Harrison views Chamberlain as this after the two meet. He decides that, if the Union army has such men in their ranks, then the Confederates will need all the help they can get, thus prompting him to take a hiatus from acting and become a spy.