Is it just me, or does the Godfather get better and better after multiple viewings? It’s truly one of those rare films that have it all – a simple, yet intriguing plot; great character development; high quality sound and video editing (that still rivals many modern films); a concisely written script; precise directing; powerful acting; unforgettable dialogue; mystery, violence, and romance. No wonder this film has made such a lasting impact on popular culture. There are countless – and I literally mean, countless – films, television shows, commercials, graphic novels and books that make obvious references in (sometimes humorous) tribute to the Godfather. It’s home to all the popular catch phrases such as, “It’s nothing personal. It’s just business,” “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse,” “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” And those are just some of the more recognizable lines. Scenes like the diner execution, the planting of the horse’s head, and the baptismal cross-cutting sequence have all been referenced innumerable times. But like they say, nothing beats the original. EVER.
I’m a die-hard Godfather fan. I fell in love with Mario Puzo’s not so seemingly fictional universe when I was still in high school. I’ve seen each of the installments at least twice, I’ve played the video game at least thrice, I’ve read the book twice, and I even read its side story novel that takes place during Michael Corleone’s exile in Sicily. Yet, even after all that (possibly unhealthy) exposure, I always, always, always get a kick out of watching the films. The Godfather is the ultimate vice. The only thing it lacks is the ability to be rolled up into a joint and smoked.
To get the full Godfather experience, one really has to soak up every available medium of it. The novel flows very differently than the film and provides rich back-stories to many of its characters, thus making them even more appealing. The game allows you to participate in all the cool scenes that take place. As an up and coming Mafioso, you’re tasked with playing crucial roles such as taping the gun for Michael in the diner’s bathroom, planting the head of Khartoum in Jack Woltz’s bed, executing the heads of the other four families, and many more.
Each individual experience of the Godfather universe acts as a puzzle that completes a larger whole. But the one element that has remained constant, whether in the books, the game, or the films, is the art of persuasion. In the game, one can extort various small, large, legal, and illegal business merchants. One can achieve this by physical methods, but the more ‘respect’ one’s character gains, the easier it becomes to smooth-talk these merchants into accepting your ‘protection’ services. The main characters in the Godfather like Don Vito, Michael, and Tom Hagen have one thing in common – they’re all smooth negotiators. In the book, Don Vito remarks, “A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more money than a hundred men with guns.” The one thing I really liked about the Godfather, and which in my opinion makes it the best gangster flick of all time, is that it really dramatized the importance of effective communication.
A lot of gangster movies today focus on mere visual aesthetics: scenes of cars and houses blowing up, drugs, sex, booze, rampant murder and bloodshed, etc. But hardly any of them feature true Mafiosos. The word ‘mafia’ loosely translates into the word ‘swagger’ or ‘boldness.’ The Godfather sets the standard for swagger. It’s not about walking around in an expensive three-piece suit, driving a luxury car, carrying a gun, and having tons of money and women all around you. Swagger is having the ability to ease your prey into a fall sense of security and having the cold-bloodedness to strangle them with garrote wire.
Even if you happen to be the brother of your prey’s wife and godfather to his only child…