It's not exactly a civil war, but religious press film critics posted starkly contrasting reviews this week of the new film by Ron Maxwell.

Gods and Generals, an epic novel of the Civil War by Jeff Shaara, chronicles the Civil War from early 1861 through the 1863 Battle of Chancellorsville. Using this book as his foundation, Maxwell has directed an ambitious, detailed, in-depth film for Turner pictures, a prequel to his 1993 Gettysburg. (You can read Dick Staub's interview with Maxwell here.)

Actors Stephen Lang, Robert Duvall, and Jeff Daniels are the headliners, portraying Confederate generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee, and Union Lt. Col. Lawrence Chamberlain, respectively. Their collaboration boasts an impressive array of historical information, wartime heroes, legendary battles, and famous quotations. It also offers more words to and about the Almighty than any film in recent memory.

This massive $60 million dollar undertaking has been presented to pastors as a great movie to share with their congregations. Promotional materials include an exhortation from Fuller Seminary President Richard J. Mouw, who says, "When Hollywood does it right, it is imperative that we as Christians support their efforts. Gods and Generals is a film worthy of your attention." There is even a Bible study tie-in available by Fuller's Craig Detweiler.

But enough about what the filmmakers and the church leaders say about the film. How does it fare with folks who make it their daily mission to examine and discuss movies?

Religious media critics fall into two camps with their responses. There are those for whom historical accuracy and frequent dialogues about faith are enough to qualify this film as a monumental achievement. And then there ...

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