Thomas’s review published on Letterboxd:
Francis Ford Coppola did the impossible. First, he made one of the best movies of all time, and then he made a sequel, which is mostly on par with its predecessor.
“The Godfather: Part II” is actually both a sequel and a prequel to the first movie. One storyline shows us the backstory of Vito Corleone and how he built his crime empire. The other storyline shows us Michael Corleone´s struggle to maintain and expand his power as the new Don. The two storylines complement each other perfectly, as the lives of Vito and Michael both parallel and contrast with each other. The film does what a second part of a story should do: The world and lore get bigger, the story and intrigues become more complex, and the character development is insane. The acting performances are once again mind-blowing. Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, John Cazale, and Robert De Niro are my favorites, but Lee Strasberg and Michael V. Gazzo are also great. Cinematography, editing, and production design have the same level of quality as the first movie and the score is as iconic as ever.
Michael Corleone has one of the most fascinating character arcs I have ever seen. The contrast between his first appearance in the first film and his last appearance in this film couldn´t be stronger. For most of his youth he valued his personal freedom and individuality and wanted nothing to do with the family business. After the attempted assassination of his father, he joined the business out of a feeling of love and responsibility for his family. This movie shows us, how Michael loses everything he once loved, because of his ego, paranoia, and obsession with power and control. The ending scene is pure perfection, since it shows the man he was, how he changed, and what he lost. We didn´t really need a third part. The first two parts already are a perfect character study.
People often argue, if “The Godfather” or “The Godfather: Part II” is the better movie. I can understand, if you choose the second movie, but my number one is the first film. In my opinion, it has the better story and the more iconic scenes. I also miss Sonny and Clemenza in Part: II, but above all, I miss Marlon Brando. Don´t get me wrong. Al Pacino is a terrific lead and Robert De Niro is fantastic as the young Vito, but when anyone mentions “The Godfather”, the first picture in my mind is Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone. That’s why the first film will always be my favorite. But both movies together are the greatest crime and family saga ever put on screen.