Reedited from beginning to end with amplified scenes and an added subplot, this all-new 2-Disc Extended Director's Cut of Ronald F. Maxwell's Gettysburg prequel restores his original vision of the fierce allegiances and combat of the early American Civil War. From Jeffrey M. Shaara's bestseller, this commemorative release coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the North/South conflict incorporates an hour of footage never seen before. The story of actor and future Presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth (Chris Conner) is newly integrated throughout the narrative alongside the legendary heroism of Joshua Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels), "Stonewall" Jackson (Stephen Lang) and Robert E. Lee (Robert Duvall). And the battle of Antietam is now included along with the fateful clashes at Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.
Packaging for the director's cut is handsome and impressive, with a lengthy essay by director Ronald F. Maxwell, bios of various characters and the actors who portray them, and more. But the big news for Gods and Generals
fans, and Civil War aficionados in general, is the inclusion of a full hour's worth of previously unseen footage, bringing the total running time to a hefty 280 minutes. Detailed by Maxwell in a new introduction accompanying this release, the additions include the lead-up to the battle of Antietam and the battle itself (20,000 men died there, the biggest single-day toll of the entire war); a variety of scenes involving Shakespearean actor John Wilkes Booth, including one in which he turns down an opportunity to meet Abraham Lincoln, whom he would later assassinate; and a few bits of camp life with brothers Joshua and Thomas Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels and C. Thomas Howell, respectively).
Also new are two commentary tracks, one with Maxwell and executive producer Ted Turner and one with the director and two historical advisers. Three featurettes, ranging from 14 to 22 minutes long, were part of the original video release in 2003. They include a portrait of the ultra-devout Confederate general Stonewall Jackson; details of the lengths to which the filmmakers went to make the film as authentic as possible; and "Journey to the Past," a making-of piece in which Maxwell and actress Donzaleigh Abernathy, daughter of civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy, discuss the issue of slavery and its depiction in the movie. --Sam Graham