The Godfather: Part II

The Godfather: Part II ★★★★

Before I start this review, I'm apologizing for not being able to catch up on the past nine weeks since this challenge began. I got so wrapped up in finishing up necessary schoolwork and unexpected life's curveballs that I fell way behind. As a result, I was too stressed out to honor my earlier commitments and couldn't fulfill each week as previously planned. Thankfully as I've gotten both my college work and life back in control - for now, I'm plowing ahead with fulfilling this challenge and fully plan on making up those missing previous weeks. Sorry for such an irregular schedule. Now on with this special review.

Why I call this review special is because a) it's a bonus offered as part of the Letterboxd challenge and b) I actually saw The Godfather Part II with my dad in the movie theaters. In fact, I was waiting for it to come back as part of Fathom Events right after I had watched The Godfather with my father a couple years ago. I had such a positive emotional response to the first one that I was so excited to see this one under the same situation as I did with that qualified masterpiece. Plus, I was really hyped up for this one, one of the few sequels to be just as good if not better than its original. Was it worth it? Mostly yes, but I'm not as enthused with the sequel as I am with the first one. [ducks from angry fans]

Don't get me wrong as I do highly recommend it. The cinematography is so beautiful that it makes one weep, and I really do appreciate its more subdued introspective look into Michael Corleone. Plus, I really enjoyed the parallel narrative involving Vito Corleone's rise to power - Robert DeNiro really puts his soul into this performance to the point I sort of jealously wish the film was more focused on him. However, I do have some mild personal quibbles with it that I need to honestly address. I'm sorry if I offend fans - I don't want to bring misery into their lives. I'm happy that they're happy and that they have great taste in movies. I just have to get my feelings off my chest, mainly as a biased somebody who knows that The Godfather is a stone-cold perfect work of art.

First problem I have with it is that it's way too long, even by my usually patient standards. Some of my favorite movies take up a good afternoon's worth of time - Lawrence of Arabia is in fact longer than this one! However, I felt that this particular film was unnecessarily excessive at 200 minutes with some scenes that really needed better editing. If one tried to cut out some extraneous scenes from Lawrence, it'd end up being the exact equal of trying to cut one of Mozart's pitch-perfect operas. A sense of harmony is installed as that earlier film features new information or character depth within each and every scene of it. However, The Godfather Part II does have some superfluous scenes that don't bring out anything new or unexpected. I jokingly call these extra bits of flab "exposition dumps" as they only reinforce information that the audience/characters already knew about. Even sadder is that these talky scenes only tells the audience, not showing them in full motion. We'd like to actually see Roth's relationship with Moe Green, not hear about it. For all we know, Roth could be making it up and really wants Michael dead because of some petty grudge.

Another problem concerning editing wise is that some plot points are rushed over while other narrative beats get dragged on and on. The Cuba scenes bring to mind as interesting details are unceremoniously brushed aside for more droning predicability, causing great fatigue to seep in. Do we really need more repetition that Fredo is a traitor or that Roth is double-crossing Michael when everyone has figured it out already? This aggravatingly causes some sections to be completely glossed over, thus damaging their impact. I want to know how young Vito got such a firm hold on his business to the point that it becomes an empire rather than spend more time seeing Michael and company brood about the Congressional hearings.

My final but chief complaint strangely focuses on Michael himself. It has nothing to do with Al Pacino's performance, but rather in his lack of compelling motivation. The first film sees him undergo a character regression from the family's only hope for being a socially legitimate success to an even more ruthless legal criminal. This spiraling downwards momentum motivates the audience into sympathizing with poor Michael as we see his relative innocence being more and more corrupted the longer he struggles against the system. The second film deals less with the consequences and Michael's inner turmoil than it does in portraying a villain become more and more evil with every move he makes. That's personally not compelling enough to warrant the time it was given to tell its melancholic tragedy. Seeing change makes a journey more emotionally complete, while just stopping at the destination for unholy periods of time only stagnates that same experience.

I do want to reiterate that I don't consider The Godfather Part II to even be a remotely bad movie. It's thankfully far from it and I'm worried I haven't stressed enough how well-crafted the film is. However, I'm just greatly disappointed in not unequivocally loving it the same way I do with its predecessor. If you passionately love it, I completely see it and agree with you on it being great. However, I personally don't see it as the untouchable masterpiece that many people see it as. Maybe it's because I haven't lived long enough to experience life's traumas, but right now I'm hesitant in giving it my thorough praise.

P.S. I'm pretending that the third one doesn't exist - I've seen way too many qualified people/fans despising it to officially consider it part of the canon. I don't want to further tarnish my beloved Godfather even more than I sadly have with this damning praise of a review.