The early life and career of Vito Corleone in 1920s New York City is portrayed, while his son, Michael, expands and tightens his grip on the family crime syndicate.
Many have argued that The Godfather Part II is better than The Godfather, but I think that Part II helps us to have a better appreciation for the first film. The Godfather Part II follows both a young Vito Corleone, showing his rise in the crime world in New York City, and his son Michael, as he struggles to keep his family, both in the blood and the crime sense, together. One shows the rise of a Don, while the other shows the downhill spiral. And, I think the audience being able to get more in depth with these characters helps us to understand the first film and its characters better.
Directed and co-written by Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather Part II beautifully weaves together its two tales, both narratively and visually. I’m most impressed by how well the film flows visually, as that can be difficult when having two completely different time periods. All the scenes with Vito Corleone, showing his rise, have a sepia tone to them. All the scenes with Michael have the same muted colors, without the use of a filter. Visually, it blends the two segments together in a way that feels natural. None of the transitions are jarring, and by the end, both time periods bleed into each other.
Now, normally, a film with a run time of three hours and twenty-two minutes would feel like it drags on forever. However, that is not the case with The Godfather Part II. In fact, it is probably one of the better paced films that I have ever watched. With a built-in intermission, there are few moments throughout the film that feel unnecessary. In fact, I could have sat there for four plus hours watching the film, as long as the writing stayed good and consistent throughout.
The acting in this film is easily on par with the first film. Robert De Niro does an incredible job imitating the mannerisms, both speaking and physical, that Marlon Brando had as Vito Corleone in the first film. Al Pacino’s performance as Michael Corleone is subtle, which is a weird way to describe a Pacino performance, I know. But, this was 1974 Pacino, ten years before he would over act as Tony Montana. He perfectly walks the line between a loving family man and a vicious crime boss. And, he perfectly shows how constantly torn Michael is. It truly is a great performance.
The best thing about The Godfather Part II, I feel, is that it can easily stand on its own legs. Save for the fact that these characters are the same ones we see in The Godfather, the story itself can stand alone, both the rise of Vito Corleone and the struggle that Michael is facing. And that is what truly makes it a good sequel, I think. Being able to stand on its own while also adding to the original film. The Godfather Part II is a film that absolutely deserves to be on the AFI list and I hope to see it remain there for a very long time.