The film takes us to uncharted territories. Obviously, most of the characters from the prequel are present here, and having seen the first Godfather, I already know what Don Vito and Michael are capable of doing. But no matter how similar they appear, The Godfather Part II is miles apart from its predecessor, in a league of its own. I find The Godfather more enjoyable to watch but that factor doesn’t diminish my appreciation of the sequel. This one digs deep into the characters’ ethos, like putting them under a microscope. It gives me a better understanding of the motivations behind their actions. It is longer and quieter but it leaves a subtle, indelible imprint in my memory.
I enjoy watching parallel stories taking place, and seeing how they connect in the end is the part I always look forward to. However, The Godfather Part II is a different case. I fear it would be predictable because we know the outcomes of Don Vito’s earlier works. Unsurprisingly, Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo pull off the incredible task of providing an ending that takes the story of Vito Corleone full circle. It is pretty nostalgic, reminiscent of the last time we see the family come together.
The rise of Don Vito, suavely played by Robert De Niro, from an orphan boy to being the head of the biggest crime syndicate in New York, is shown alongside Michael’s acquisition of headship and facing the consequences of his previous crimes. Here, the filmmakers employ a certain technique that stops me from getting stuck up with just one character’s storyline. The scenes are cut and arrange in a way that excitement gets suspended and then the focus shifts to the other character. And I wait patiently for the pay off. The comparison between Don Vito and Michael is inevitable. In fact, among the siblings, the youngest closely matches the father’s temperament. They are both clever, level-headed men. There is, however, a huge difference with the way they make use of their intelligence in forming bonds and alliances. Don Vito starts from scratch and works his way up to earn his people’s respect. Their loyalty to him is deeply rooted; his demeanor tells them that as long as their loyalty remains with the godfather, they are family. On the other hand, Michael inherits the empire and his father’s loyal cohorts. He seems to act cold and distant. He does seem to trust no one, and talks business and nothing else.
The Michael we see in the first film is unstoppable. He still is; outsmarting all of his enemies, and getting out of criminal cases. But his powers crumble, revealing loopholes and limitations. Too focused on keeping his enemies closer, he pushes his family farther away. He neglects his role as a father. He is unaware of Kay’s apparent abortion. No matter how hard he tries to keep the family intact, things fall apart.
The Godfather Part II is hard to watch because it sometimes leads me to believe that it would give Michael some kind of redemption in the end. It gives me false hopes – changes, reconciliation with his wife, and Michael forgiving Fredo and letting him live. Instead it leaves me, not with the same level of astonishment, but with a heavy heart.