Traditionally movie sequels aren’t nearly as good as their predecessors. One could make the excuse of greed and the desire for an easy dollar as the motivation for “expanding” cinematic stories. Most of the time this is true. And while I’m sure profits were a big part of the conversation the Paramount suits had when deciding to green-light The Godfather Part II, but producer/writer/director Francis Ford Coppola didn’t go out and bastardize the franchise. Far from it. Like its predecessor, The Godfather Part II is a masterpiece of American filmmaking that continues to explore themes of family, power and legacy.
Told with parallel storylines, The Godfather Part II is both a sequel and a prequel. The primary plot follows Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) as he imposes his power as the head of the most powerful family in New York’s underworld. The second storyline looks at the origins of how the Corleone’s came to power a generation earlier as Vito Corleone (Robert De Niro) went from a condemned boy in Sicily to a mafia matriarch.
The parallel storylines show both the similarities and the differences between Vito and his son Michael. Although it wasn’t as easy as riding a tricycle or making a batch of jell-o, Vito’s rise to power was a little easier to accomplish than it was for both himself and Michael to maintain. Vito emerged in relatively simple times when everyone was just trying to establish themselves in the quickly growing nation of America. Vito enacted on a vision while Michael had to uphold the vision’s core values in a time of increased complication, competition and development. In gaining power Vito was surrounded by people and loved ones. However, Michael’s journey was one a lonely one where he ultimately isolated himself from everyone. In order to maintain his family’s control he had to severe most of his relationships. Michael was a living martyr giving himself up for the good of the Corleone family. And money. And power.
The resulting implication is that although Vito was a violent man who committed murder, amongst other crimes, he was a good man who fought for both a greater good and greatness. When Michael took over, there was nothing left to gain except more power. So while Vito is undeniably a good guy in the eyes of Coppola, things aren’t so straight-forward for Michael. Ironically, he was the one who served his country in the military as a young man and he is more of a bad guy than his father.
Like The Godfather, Coppola’s second installment focuses largely on characters and their interaction. This time however, depending on the storyline, the focus is largely on Michael and Vito. While the original presented a largely ensemble look at the Corleones, The Godfather Part II hones its focus on the two leaders. Even with this narrowed focus, the film is still a sweeping, riveting success as Coppola looks at the tough choices both men had to make as well as the implications of these decisions.
The Godfather Part II DVD Review
When you’re one of the greatest films of all-time then you deserve only the best. Despite having a solid (and originally pricey) release as a boxed set a few years ago, Francis Ford Coppola wanted to make things better. Now he proudly presents “The Coppola Restoration” box set in which both The Godfather and The Godfather Part II have both undergone meticulous restorations.
Like The Godfather, The Godfather Part II has been cleaned up and looks cleaner and sharper than I’ve ever seen it on both the previous VHS and DVD copies I’ve owned. It also has a new Dolby 5.1 Surround audio track as well as a 5.1 French track and an English mono track. Subtitles are offered in English, French and Spanish. Francis Ford Coppola another informative commentary track.
The remaining bonus features are bundled together on not one but two bonus discs. One disc contains features that were all released with the last DVD box set a few years ago. Nine featurettes make up a deep and rounded look at the making of the film. Everything from writing to cinematography to music to sets are covered. Additional features include deleted scenes, a Corleone family tree that connects many of the characters, an image gallery and short written biographies for major crew members.
New bonus features continue to amaze in the number of angles extras can be taken. “Godfather World” looks at the impact The Godfather franchise has had on pop culture and makes connections to both The Sopranos, South Park and The Simpsons, amongst others. “The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn’t” tracks how Hollywood, amidst a tremendous change away from the studio system, nearly led to The Godfather not being made. Not only is it another look at the film, but it’s also an interesting and revealing piece on Hollywood history. “…when the shooting stopped” explores the post production and the conflict over the control. “Emulsion Rescue: Revealing The Godfather” talks about the restoration process the film underwent for this release. For some reason, stars who just happened to be at the premiere of Cloverfield comment on what they think of The Godfather in “The Godfather on the Red Carpet.” That’s synergy for you. And it’s really feels out of place here. Under the title “Four Short Films on The Godfather” there’s a hodgepodge of additional extras. The first, “The Godfather vs. The Godfather Part II” has critics and stars debate their favourite of the two films. The remaining shorts put the spotlight on random quotes, cannoli and the fate of Clemenza. All of the new features can be subtitled in English, French or Spanish.
It’s not really a big deal, but still something worth noting. The bonus discs were mislabeled in the set I received. It’s nothing huge, just discs four and five having the wrong titles on the disc. I’m not sure if this was an error with all of the sets or if it’s going to be corrected.
The Godfather Part II Gallery