Wes Edwards’s review published on Letterboxd:
The tone of The Godfather turns from the nostalgia and mournfulness of Part I to the tragic in Part II. The structure of the second is different as well. The screenplay moves us both backward and forward in time: It takes us to events that took place before Part I, as young Vito Corleone leaves Sicily for America. It also picks up where Part I left off, with Vito's son Michael establishing himself as Don. Michael has transferred the family's center of power from New York to Nevada and he is looking to expand its influence in a deal in Cuba.
The dual narratives do meet at the end of Part II, in a way, as Michael recalls a long-ago family dinner. There is great power in that scene as we look at all the people around the table, and at the empty chairs, and realize the life journey of everyone there. The wedding that opened Part I is a distant memory; Part II ends in grief, blood and isolation.
The same professionalism and creativity are evident here as in Part I, with stellar cinematography, music and performances, for example. However, the pace of the sequel is slower and the tone is much more somber. The family is in a much different season. The violence the family deals in routinely feels much heavier to everyone in the story, a burden as much as a necessity to the Corleones. We see the cost to Michael sooner than he does himself.
This is a good movie. It works in a different key than its predecessor, but it is a worthy sequel.