And the day is saved by Mr.De Niro

‘Disappointment’ is a relative word – all it says it that a thing isn’t amazing; it isn’t as good as your expectations without really saying much about the intrinsic quality of the thing per se. But, how does a film directed by the same guy who made The Godfather and Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola), co-written by Mario Puzo, starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Robert Duvall and lauded by critics well worth their salt as one of the greatest things that happened to the cinematic world manage to be disappointing?

It’s not very difficult, actually. Here’s how.

1. Characters are unimpressive

 An interesting feature about the original Godfather was that it elevated its characters from being mere vessels to carry a plot and placed them on a pedestal of higher importance.

This is where Godfather 2 meets it first pitfall. Barely anyone in the film, with the exception of Fredo and Frank Pentangelli to an extent, manage to leave a lasting impression. Most characters are indistinct and bland; milquetoast even. There is a featureless, unnamed bodyguard, an ineffectual Senator and an aging, gutless antagonist amongst others who drift in and out like mere shadows. The Godfather gave birth to people (pun unintended) like Luca Brasi, Sonny, Sollozzo, Johnny Fontane and a plethora of others. Godfather 2 unfortunately, does not follow suit, with its cast having been cut out of an entirely different cloth. It is like a stage with Michael is basking in the spotlight and everyone is reduced to props in the act.

The could have just named him Joe...

The could have just named him Macaroni...

2. Déjà vu

 The end of part 1 showed the ruthless alter-ego of Michael, when he murders all his enemies in a cold-blooded manner. Godfather 2 offers a dishearteningly similar conclusion. There is a deception involving someone close with that Judas being killed eventually (Tessio in part 1), a family member is killed by the family too (Carlo Rizzi in part 1), the enemies are topped off before they realize what hit them (Sollozzo, Barzini and Tattaglia in part 1), which is more or less precisely what happened in the predecessor, resulting in an induced seen-this-before feeling.

3. Rubber band

 Irrespective of how good a movie is, watching it for over 200 minutes does get exhausting and especially so when it is intellectually consuming. Added to that is the fact that the movie features plenty of superfluous, unnecessary scenes. Entire ten minute-long parts can be lopped off without causing noticeably mutilating the movie.

John Doe at the interval of Godfather 2. He was 5 years old when the movie started.

The story further exacerbates the case. Through the farrago of people, guns, blood and Mafioso hardballing, all that the film consists of is two not-very-ethical guys trying to kill each other. This weak plotline does not carry the raw power that the original Godfather brought with it.

4. Michael is not Vito

 Vito Corleone is perhaps one of the most charismatic fictional characters created. Michael is nowhere close. Vito is a man of respect, who believes in certain virtues, who only took to crime because it was a matter of survival and truly deserved the title of the Godfather. Michael Corleone, is comparison, is a blood-thirsty hound whose only catharsis is taking lives. He commits atrocities his father would have abhorred – killing family members, indulging in violence uncalled for, whacking and deserting his wife – which make the title of the Godfather vested upon him seem like a sacrilege.

See the difference?

However, I am not saying that Michael ought to have been precisely what his father was. Instead, he should have grown from all the experiences and knowledge he received under his father’s tutelage and mellowed into a respectable man like his father, thus completing the circle of life.

5. Oscillations in time are pointles

At times, watching Godfather 2 is almost like watching two separate films that have are faintly interrelated – one about Vito Corleone’s past and the other about Michael Corleone’s present. If seen individually, both of them are well-made, but they don’t go well together, mainly because of a lacking correlation between them. This makes the ferrying back and forth in time a futile effort.

And the day is saved by Mr.De Niro

The past, starring De Niro in the lead, is really impressive and with hints of the old power, plays a grace-saving role. All the parts that didn’t fit into the first movie were stitched together into the second, and surprisingly that is the best part about the film. However, it doesn’t cover many details about the Godfather that essentially should have been included – like Vito adopting Tom Hagen, Peter Clemenza’s death (he was removed because the actor demanded too much money) and Vito rising to his true glory. These aspects are left entirely in the dark and give it the appearance of a dazzling grin with a few of its teeth missing.

6. It came AFTER The Godfather

This statement might seem unworthy of mentioning, but it is a valid argument. Comparisons between the two classics are inevitable and the sad thing is that the original whacks its successor out of the park. The power, emotions and story that was hauntingly narrated in The Godfather is impossible to replicate, and this comparison makes Godfather 2 seem like a letdown.

However, that doesn’t speak about how good the film is by itself. It is brilliantly directed and plays out in an intriguing manner, and I’ll give the film all due credit for that. The movie is not bad, and these are microscopic flaws opposed to its grandeur. The film is a classic by all standards, a true classic.

However, this one isn't a classic.

Many have also been naively claiming that this is the best sequel ever made. However, they spoke too soon. The Dark Knight wasn’t made then.

John Doe, photograph by Marc Lewis

  • Aamil Keeyan Khan

    I thought it went a notch higher than it’s incredible predecessor and that’s really saying something.

    • Anonymous

      No, I felt the first part was the best. I love the parts which showed Vito’s past though. Robert De Niro!

  • Aamil Keeyan Khan

    Godfather 2 isn’t a classic? What a joke!! And comparing it with the TDK? (Which despite all it’s brilliant strokes is still a flawed film) says more about the writer than the film.

    • Anonymous

      I agree with you. But he did say that Godfather 2 is a classic!

      • Anonymous

        Godfather 3 is referred to as a non classic. Which I firmly believe- it was the crappiest considering the other two.

    • [email protected]

      ‘The film is a classic by all standards, a true classic.’
      Please get your facts right. 

  • Appumaggu

    I belive the comparison done was right. even I never understood the hype as to why godfather-2 also beame a huge thing considering godfather part 1

    • jamesonrichards

      Godfather was where they should have ended it. Maybe only a prequel would be good.

  • Sumedh Natu

    “Watching it for over 200 minutes does get exhausting….Entire ten minute-long parts can be lopped off without causing noticeably mutilating the movie”

    Would you also say the same about Gone with the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, Dr.Zhivago, Once upon a time in America, LOTR: The Return of the King….and Sholay? Or do these need to have entire 10 minute sequences lopped off as well?

  • Sid

    TDK?? Really? TDK is important, imo, for solely two reasons – transcending genre, and Ledger. It’s a well made movie but hardly one nearing the top of the greats. Having said that, I really like this list, except point 4. A primary motif of the movie is to establish that Michael is not who his father was. They both come from different backgrounds, and end up using crimes as means to different ends. One can argue about the portrayal, but to mess with the character of Michael itself would have made it an entirely different movie altogether.