I just finished watching The Godfather, Part III this morning. It was great to revisit the trilogy after all this time and while I'd love to just write paragraph after paragraph sucking the first two films' dicks, I don't think you need me to tell you how great they are. It's pretty much undisputed how incredible and classic they are and how they're among the best films ever made, but of course, the third part is definitely the black sheep of the family and I had some thoughts on it.
I kind of feel the same way about the Godfather Part III compared to the first two as I do when comparing the Star Wars prequels to the original trilogy. It's good, and I feel it's unjustly put down, and I'll admit it has more than its fair share of flaws, but I definitely like it, it's just that it's simply just not as good as its predecessors and there's really no comparison to them. Strange though, how if you look at the general reaction to Part III, it's not really met with pure boiling hatred, just more disappointment, and I guess that's fair enough.
I do think though there may be some hypocrisy on our part as the audience as to why the movie doesn't quite click. In the first two, we're willing to follow Michael Corleone as the anti-hero. He is a flawed human being and he has people killed and even if he's not exactly likable, he's at least an interesting and engaging character. But here in Part III, he's actively and desperately seeking redemption for his acts, and there is something very offputting about his vulnerability. He feels like a weaker version of Vito Corleone from the first film, as if this late in life he's finally trying to emulate his morals- but with the character, as well as the movie itself, it's almost a case of too little too late. Instead of accepting and following a character despite his flaws, we're left pitying him, and that's a very uncomfortable place to be.
But there are things I really like about the movie, things I truly adore. The scenes of Michael trying to reconnect with Kay are excellent, and Andy Garcia was great in his role as Vincent...he felt to me like a combination of Michael and Sonny. He was a great character. There were some very memorable scenes and while I can't compare it to the earlier movies I'd say "Once I thought I was out, they pull me back in," is just as iconic of a line as any of the other memorable keyphrases throughout the series.
But it's the overall plot is just strange. I didn't find the whole aspect of Vatican politics all too interesting. Religion has always been a big theme in these movies but taking place right in the heart of it seemed like an interesting idea that misfired in its execution. And the incest plotline? Just so unnecessary. Why? Why include that? And furthermore, why have all the surronding characters react to a love affair between first cousins with such a mild disapproval? Also, I felt the movie could have used some Robert Duvall. His character Tom Hagen is missing from the movie, I think they wrote him off as having died at some point, but boy, his presence is missed. Hagen as a character and Duvall as an actor always felt to me like the glue that held everything together. He was missed.
And Sofia Coppola. Like...okay, I really don't want to jump on the "let's hate Sofia Coppola" bandwagon, but it's completely true that the performance just isn't good at all. I can't even really blame her, she was only 20 at the time, I don't even think she ever acted before (most certainly not in such an important role at least) and Winona Ryder was supposed to be in the role but backed out last minute, and I'm sure Francis Coppola was extremely encouraging and put a good amount of pressure for her to do it, but the result was not good. It really, really, really hurts the movie. Her performance is distracting and it takes away from any emotional connection we should have between her character and Michael. The biggest problem with that is that it's the foundation of the entire movie. If the performance doesn't work, the character doesn't work, if the character doesn't work, there's absolutely no emotional impact, and the entire movie falls down like a house of cards.
But anyway, I don't hate the movie, I really don't, and it's a lot easier to focus on its flaws, but it's just not as good as the first two movies. It has its worth but compared to the landmark cinematic achievements that came before it, falling short was inevitable.