This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
ARegularJoe’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Picking whether I like parts 1 or 2 more in "The Godfather" series I found a bit tricky. For starters, the original installment is not only considered by many to be one of the greatest films ever made,(A statement i completely agree with by the way.) but it was also highly influential in American cinema. It spawned the sub genre of gangster flicks such as "Scarface", "The Departed", and my personal favorite mob movie, "Goodfellas". Plus, with the first film, they wouldn't be "The Godfather: Part II".
However, in my own personal opinions, I found the sequel to be superior to the original. That's not to say any less of the original, as picking which film is better is up to personal taste. And to be honest, I don't see most people going wrong with either. The reasons i prefer movies 2 over 1 are for the following reasons.
1. The scope
One of the biggest factors of a good sequel is to expand form what the original set up. This could go as introducing new characters, locations, or situations that characters old or new must face. Not only does "The Godfather: Part II" does all of that, it also not only takes a route of a sequel, but also a prequel. A good chunk of the film is centered around a younger Vito Corleone,(Who I will get to later.) and how he rise to becoming the Don we know from the first film. In the hands of a less capable director, "The Godfather: Part II" could have easily been a confused mess. Thankfully Francis Ford Coppola is able to mix both stories of Michael and Vito's stories without it feel jumbled or out of place. It moves smoothly throughout the 3-hour running time. A length that I feel is earned, due to the scale the film is taking, and the addition of Vito's story.
2. The parallel between Michael and Vito Corleone.
Since they are technically the main characters of "The Godfather: Part II", and a added plus of the prequel/sequel structure, is that we get to see how both Michael and Vito Corleone act, and operated as Dons. Now that was also at the case in the first, but the difference here is that Vito here is at the very least, around the same age of Michael, and was at that age in a different time period, and his background that help influence his rise to Don. That adds in my opinion, a fascinating comparison. We also see both Father and Son not just who there as Don, but as people, and I as get thought this review, it is more than clear that they had major differences. The big one being is that Vito took saw the situations he was in as something personal, Michael saw his situations as business.
3. Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro as a younger Vito Corleone can be argue was the role that launched him into stardom. He won his first Oscar for his performance in "The Godfather: Part II", and landed roles in some of the most beloved films of all time, such as "Goodfellas", "Raging Bull", "Taxi Driver", "The Deer Hunter" and "Heat" to name a few. Heck, he is my most tagged actor so far on Letterboxd, which after this review, will be 15. So what does he add here that makes this performance so ionic. First off, he both captures what Marlon Brando did in the first, but add his own personal touches that makes me buy that this is a younger Vito. De Niro also fully engulfs himself in the role. I don't see Robert De Niro, I see Vito Corleone. This role was a sign that Robert De Niro was going to high places in his career, which he certainly did. As for wether his performance is better than Brando, i feel there as even, as that brought their own trademarks into one of the most famous characters in cinema.
4. Al Pacino
In a movie full of brilliant performances, in my opinion, the standout was Pacino's second role as Michael Corleone. As great as he was in the first, I felt that it was Brando that stole the show, even though Al Pacino clearly hold his own against Brando. Since the sequel has more focus on Michael, it really gave Pacino the chance to add more meat to the role. Pacino's performance is subtle, but full of nuance. From his tone of voice, his facial expressions, and how he acts around others, there is a lot more to both the performance and character in the inside than in the outside, and it's shown in the film perfectly. I personally think that this is one of the best performances ever made.
5. The last hour
The past 2 hours of "The Godfather Part II" are cinematic gold on their own merits, and are easily on par with the first film. However, it was the film's final hour that really made the film from just incredible, to being in my top 5 favorite movies of all time. There are a good deal of scenes I can name from the back of my mind. Some of them being Vito killing the murderer of his family, Kay telling Michael that their third child miscarriage was an abortion, Fredo confession on why he betray Michael, the massacre montage that is associated with the series, that also includes the death of Fredo. And finally, the last shot of Michael alone, with only his sins as his companion. It sums what "The Godfather: Part II" is in it's storytelling. The rise of Vito Corleone as Don, a good man despite being a criminal. And the moral descent of Michael Corleone, a good man who wants to leave the criminal life, but eventually ends up as the worst criminal in the entire film. A man who lost his own soul, to the life he wanted to avoid for most of his life, and was eventually forced to live in. Truly the stuff of brilliant filmmaking.
And that sums what my thoughts on "The Godfather" Vs. "The Godfather: Part II". While the first is undeniably a game changer in film, and is still an amazing movie. What "The Godfather Part II" does, is take the blueprint set-up in the first film, and expand it in the best way possible. Even so, I still adore these flicks, and I can't go wrong with either of them.