Chen Geller’s review published on Letterboxd:
Ah, the crime drama genre, probably the most prestigious Hollywood genre, and one of my least beloved.
Thankfully, The Godfather is the exception to the rule, because it understands that the ONLY way to make a crime drama truly resonant is to have the main character get gradually sucked into it from the outside. If the character is embroiled in organized crime from the outset (Goodfellas, Scarface) that inevitably puts a wedge between him and the audience.
That being said, Part II does benefit from how convincing Michael's descent was to watch. Whenever someone talks out-of-line around him, the audience is on pins-and-needles. Al Pacino doesn't need to do much to hold this up: just that terribly icy glare of his is enough.
However, that's also where my problem with this movie lies. People pile on Part III for not bringing anything new to the table, but honestly that's true of this film. The first film saw Michael's fall into organized crime, and the second film...has him fall some more.
There are certainly flourishes added to keep it fresh. If nothing else, it improves upon the previous film in its absolutely gorgeous visuals. There are flashbacks threaded into this film featuring the "rise" of Michael's father, and you could tell them apart from a glance purely through the colour timing.
Those air quotes around Vito's rise are my main issue with this film. Tragedy, you see, is the study of a fall from virtue - NOT from wealth. Since Vito falls into a life of crime early and without discernable objection, there isn't really a rise here to juxtapose with Michael's "fall." His "rise" is entirely materialistic.
That aside, I don't take issues with the film's other artistic aspects. I love the supporting roles - Lee Strasberg is particularly compelling - the music is good, and while its a long film, I have no complaints about the pace. Its meticulously structured, with a strong "hook" at the opening, but it also knows and has the confidence to slow down and dwell.
I guess what I'm saying is: its good, but I had my fill with the original film.