The Godfather: Part III

The Godfather: Part III ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I first saw The Godfather: Part III back in 1990 or '91. Like most people, I disliked it. As a younger viewer, I found it hard not to compare it to The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather: Part II (1974), which are both five-star movies. And, honestly, it should be compared: it's part of the same series with the same actors and the same director.

Watching it now, thirty years later, I find that I like it better, although it's still lacking. My main thought when I got to the end of the movie was: Well, that was unnecessary.

Part III features Michael as a much older man in 1979. His kids are grown. He and Kate are divorced and she has remarried. He has sold off all of his business interests in Las Vegas and is now a legitimate businessman. He is making a move to acquire a multimillion-dollar company that will mean financial security for himself and his family for generations. His former associates in crime want a piece of his new action, but he makes it clear that he's going straight—much to their chagrin. As you might imagine, there are assassination attempts and murders. Add to the mix Sonny's illegitimate son who seeks to become the new Godfather . . .

Reasons why Part III just doesn't cut it:

First, I had a hard time following the plot. In The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II, I never had a hard following the plot—mainly because everything was focused on Michael. In Part III, I often wondered what a particular scene was about or why a particular person wanted to kill another person.

The closest analogy I can make is to Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983) and George Lucas's prequels. The first three films were so good because they focused on Luke's journey. Yes, they also featured other characters, but they always returned to Luke. And most importantly, the films were character based.

Lucas's prequels were plot based. They didn't focus on any one character in particular, and they got lost in a byzantine plot. While I don't hate the prequels, I don't love them, either. That's how I feel about The Godfather: Part III.

Second, the runtime. The Godfather is 2 hours and 58 minutes long. Part II is 3 hours and 22 minutes long. Part III is 2 hours and 50 minutes. The last film is the shortest of the lot, but it felt the longest to me. I clicked on the Display button several times to see how much time was left. Each scene in the first two films feels necessary. Many scenes in this film feel . . . I'm not even sure how to describe it. I'm sure they're necessary to the plot as written, I just wasn't invested.

Third, the acting. Many people have commented on the acting of Sofia Coppola. I don't want to pile on; I will just say that she seems like a good actress among greats. She's out of her league.

Fourth, the characters. I wasn't nearly as invested in the characters in this film. While we have returning characters, we mostly have new characters. Part II felt like a continuation of the first movie. Part III almost feels like a different series.

Fifth, Part III doesn't earn its ending, which is why I felt like the entire movie was redundant. At the end of Part II, Michael was sitting in a chair contemplating the fact that he had lost everything in his quest to create a secure life for himself. Part II was so powerful because the entire movie built to that final image.

But what does Part III add to the underlying message of Part II? Did I need to see Michael's daughter killed and Michael die of old age in a chair by himself? (Well, not entirely by himself: there's a little doggie nearby.) And the death of Mary Corleone didn't even make me feel a bit of emotion. The acting from Al Pacino and Diane Keaton is good, but I didn't feel a smidgen of their sadness. The conclusion had been forced, not earned. I felt like I was being hit over the head with the message: Hey, kids, crime doesn't pay!

Anyway, it may sound like I hated the movie. I didn't. There's a lot to enjoy. There are many great images and great scenes. Does it all come together as a whole? No, but it's still worth a watch.

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