Mitchell Beaupre’s review published on Letterboxd:
After my rewatch of The Godfather reminded me how incredible that film is I was excited to revisit the second part. I’ve always felt like Part II was a step down, but this time around had a feeling like maybe my mind would be swayed and I could see them on par with each other. Alas, I came away more sure than ever of the disparity between the two. I don’t think Part II is bad by any means, but it really lacks so much of the things that make the first such a tremendous work in my eyes. Aside from Fredo’s tragic arc, masterfully portrayed by John Cazale in his best performance, I don’t feel the rich characterization here that was present in the first one.
Michael is mostly existing in one register for the entire movie, and the crosscutting of his storyline with the rise of Vito in the flashbacks doesn’t work for me, nor does it feel particularly relevant? The whole movie is about Michael losing his connection to his humanity and ending up completely alone, but I never felt like there was a counterpoint to that in Vito’s story. Maybe if Vito’s rise was juxtaposed with Michael’s fall, or if Michael losing his family was portrayed against Vito being a loner who comes together with his family then this structure would have more power to it. Instead it mostly felt like an excuse to extend the IP of one of the most renowned films of all-time. A little bit of fan fiction prequel flavoring. I still think the aesthetic is strong, the performances are great, particularly from Cazale, Strasberg, and Gazzo, but overall this one doesn’t measure up to its reputation the same way that the first does for me.