Ayden The NinjaPirateBear’s review published on Letterboxd:
Common actor from previous film: John Cazale
I was really excited to watch this one, despite it's mammoth 200min runtime, mainly due to the fact that a lot of people say this one is better than the first, which I watched for the first time yesterday and LOVED!
While I'm sad to say I don't agree with the people saying this one is better than the first, I will say I still liked this film a hell of a lot and this, as well as the first, are master classes in the art of film making.
The cinematography is even better than the first. Using more locations than the first, Francis Ford Coppola and company got the best of their locations, Sicily, Italy, New York, Miami, Lake Tahoe and the Dominican Republic (filling in for Cuba.) Every shot was beautiful and had obviously been thought about an awful lot.
The acting is still great. Everybody crushes it, but the three standouts are Al Pacino (obviously) as Michael Corleone, Robert de Niro as young Vito Corleone and John Cazale as Fredo Corleone. Pacino had to evolve Michael into something so different from the first one, something he never wanted to become and he nails it. De Niro had the unenviable task of following up Brando's perfomance as Don Vito and he crushed it. Not only did he perfect the mannerisms that Brando instilled in this character, but he added depth to him, showing us why Don Vito has some of the beliefs he does. Obviously the scriptwriters play a huge part in this but it'd still need a hell of an actor to pull it off and De Niro was perfect. John Cazale nailed the heavily conflicted Fredo to perfection.
So, after all this praise, why do I think the first is better? Maybe it's personal preference, but I just felt Michael Corleone was so unlikable as the film's protagonist (a credit to how well Pacino played it to make me despise this character), that I couldn't find myself rooting for him in any way. Brando's Vito in the first film was just that much more likable. It may seem like a weird reason to choose one film over the other but there it is...