The Godfather, Part II (1974)

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It’s kind of hard these days to be entertained by a vindictive sociopath.  In fairness, I’m not sure whether I would have enjoyed this much even if I hadn’t watched it dangerously close to the election.  I prefer even my anti-heroes to have a shred of humanity.  What’s the appeal of this gangster lifestyle, anyway?  It’s only attractive if you’re the one at the top of the food chain.

Michael’s transformation from college boy to powerful Mafia don is officially complete.  He even looks colder in this film, from his polished suits and slick hair to his stone-faced appraisal of his enemies (which, it seems, is just about everybody).  He’s apparently made a full shift to Vegas, expanding into the territory his own father refused to enter:  gambling.

Meanwhile, as we see Michael at his peak, we also learn more about how his father set off on his path to godfatherhood, starting from the murder of his entire family by the don they crossed in Sicily.  I’m not sure it’s a contrast, exactly, to see father and son learning how to kill.  If anything, it makes you wonder how two men with relatively different childhoods (one marked by trauma, the other by financial security with maybe some exposure to the grittier side of his dad’s day job) can end up at the same result.

In the middle, there’s a fairly muddled storyline about a movie producer and a congressional hearing and Cuba just before the revolution and people double-crossing Michael.  At some point in the film, nearly everyone is implicated in having a hand in betraying Michael, and I honestly don’t know for sure how much was paranoia and how much was actual scheming.  Also, I swear there was a guy working for Michael that shared the same name as the Mafia don who slaughtered the elder Corleone’s family back in Italy, but it was conveniently never explained.

Whenever I’ve heard about these two movies, it’s with the acknowledgement that the second one is better (and the final film a pretty distant third).  But I preferred the first.  I found it a bit predictable (well, the parts I could follow):  assuming you’re on Michael’s side, you might be happy to see that he gets his comeuppance against his enemies, but it’s far less satisfying that the vengeance wrought in Part I.

Michael doesn’t surprise me anymore.  He saddens me, to think that this is a man we (as a society, as a hyper-masculine culture) deem to be deserving of respect.  Perhaps the difference is that in Part I, he was protecting his family from an external threat.  Now, it’s hard to see what his motivation might be.  All he seems to be doing is demonstrating his power for the sake of it.

 

Theme:  sequel

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  Godfather 2: The Godfathering

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