on 7 December 2011
Finally! I have seen the Godfather Trilogy, something I've wanted to be able to say for the longest time. And, with this part of the trilogy, I went in with my eyes wide-open: the movie the critics despise. I was absolutely determined to avoid having my view or my opinion poisoned by this known negative bias, and I think I succeeded. The problem, though, is that the film just isn't as good as the other two.
You see, the film has its strengths, sometimes it even displays strengths the other two just didn't, such as the strong emotional reaction evoked by Pacino and Keaton's chemistry; although, of course, one shouldn't ignore the well written dialogue between the two characters either. For the first time, I was made care about Michael's love for Kay, something that his immorality had blocked in the prior two parts. This time, however, with Michael's quest for redemption, his love is absolute and obvious, which Pacino makes very obvious in his (again) outstanding performance.
Unfortunately, the emotional depth sacrifices the sort of objectivity the previous films had, making this movie a little melodramatic and soppy at points. This is actually a holistic problem for the film: almost all of it is simply too over the top. Any believability the other two films had is sort of shot here. This just wasn't a film I wanted some sort of alternate history in, it completely destroyed my ability to suspend disbelief.
The inclusion of the new characters is necessary, I suppose, but also not entirely successful. I found the new characters a distraction for a number of reasons, both the problem of the writer and a certain actor. For one, the new characters just didn't get any real development; the exception being Vincent Mancini, of course, but his development was so rushed. By the end of the movie, he ends up where Michael took a film and a half to get to. Then there's the pivotal character of Mary Corleone who is completely savaged by Sofia Coppola, as sad as that is. The returning characters though are as outstanding as they always were.
Although not too big of a problem- because direction was never really a big deal for Coppola with these movies- the direction feels off. It just doesn't fit with the other two. But I suppose that's too be expected considering the time gap between part two and three. This is a problem, though, because it kind of alienates the film.
With so many criticisms, it may seem like I intensely disliked the movie, but that isn't true. The great soundtrack, dialogue and characters are still here to be loved. And I, for one, feel the ending did do the trilogy justice. I've heard complaints that Brando's death scene was so much more dramatic than Pacino's, but surely it's supposed to be? Michael is an empty vessel at the end; with nothing to live for and no one to care, such an eventless demise seems perfectly fitting to me. I also like the operatic climax, if not a little predictable.
So all in all, this was a good movie; a character study in Michael Corleone. After all, Coppola did want to call it 'The Death of Michael Corleone'. I think a problem many people had was the change in tone from the first two, but that's expected, as this really isn't a sequel but an epilogue. Putting the character to bed was Coppola's intention here, and I think he did it with style. Not a masterpiece, but a good, steady finale for Michael Corleone.