Continuing on with my quest to watch all the "classic" movies ever made, I watched The Godfater: Part II. I think a lot of people will disagree with my review of the film, but I always try to be objective.
The Godfather: Part II follows on from Part I about 4 years later. Michael Corleone, now deeply rooted in his position as "godfather" of the Corleone family, proceeds to protect his family's best interests while fending off criminal allegations and assassination attempts. Michael's efforts to make his family legitimate by monopolising businesses, creates enemies out of former allies and generates a rift between him and his wife and children. The movie has a "tragedy" feel about it, even though Michael's intentions are good, his actions always result in grave consequences. Interweaved within Michael's downfall are "flashbacks" (if you can really call them that) of his father Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) and how he started the family business. His story is told beginning with his childhood in Sicily to fleeing to America as an orphan ,and then the start of his empire from scratch. Vito's story and Michael's story are opposites. Michael is trying to go legitimate with murder as an unwanted by-product, whereas Vito is forced to enter the criminal world where his murders are justified and met with gratitude.
In my humble opinion I thought the film lacked direction or drive. It was like a glimpse into the life of a man or rather two men but with no sense of conclusion. It seemed like Coppola had so many ideas and events to cram into the film he forgot about the pacing and overall proceedings as a cinematic experience. The film was 3 hours and 20 minutes long and by the end of it I felt no closure or even sense of ending. The flashbacks of Vito completely halted the momentum of Michael's story. They became an annoyance and were too contrasting in mood that the film as a whole had an in-cohesive, sporadic feel.
Now with the negative criticisms out of the way, the approving aspects will be discussed. As a sequel, it kept a lot of similar traits to the first film but also identified the differences. For example, the first scene showing Michael is at a family gathering not unlike the wedding in Part I. However, in the first film everyone treats Vito Corleone with unquestionable respect, but in the second film the family look to Michael as uncharitable and weak. The casting was praiseworthy with Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, John Cazale and of course Al Pacino all returning and sustaining the continuity of characters. Al Pacino's character was very subtly done, calm and composed but you could see his character slowly being destroyed on the inside. Diane Keaton's role as the ill-informed, distressed wife who is unhappy in marriage, highlights again Michael's weakening dominance. All the character deliveries possessed a different approach to the first film, providing a sense of desperation and hopelessness.
The production value of the film was very high. The musical score, retaining the same thematic material as Part I, was the strong backbone that held the film's scattered story together. The sound design, lighting and camera work were well executed, preserving the same look as its predecessor. As a sequel it was a seamless and credible transition.
My only qualms with this film are its pacing and plot construction. I disapproved of the Vito Corleone flashbacks, despite giving added understanding to the family's origins, were mostly distracting. The acting and overall production was of an impeccably high standard but due to the longwinded plot I felt the film lacked vitality. Regrettably I can only give this film a 7.5 out of 10. Sorry Godfather fans.
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Written by Mario Puzo (novel and screenplay), Francis Ford Coppola (screenplay). Starring Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Lee Strasberg, G.D. Spradlin etc.