The Godfather Part II, albeit a direct sequel to The Godfather, can be seen as a completely different film in its entirety. Detached from the first in the sense of style, the only thing it perhaps shares in common with its predecessor are the characters. The film is told in juxtaposition between the rise in power of Michael Corleone to that of a young Vito Corleone. It is done so in such a way that brings about a whole new edge to the franchise, it invokes understanding and reason as to why the mob life is the way it is.
What I enjoyed in particular was the style of the film, the juxtaposition between past and present (Vito and Michael Corleone) worked effortlessly for the plot and I believe the film benefitted from the two stories being compared and contrasted simultaneously. Every time the present story line of Michael cut back to that of Vito in the past, it was as if taking a fresh breath of air after spending much time submerged in the violence and cold heavy world of the gangster life that Michael lives. Looking back upon the life of a young Vito, we as the audience are exposed to his roots and I personally found it all the more captivating that the future Don was a very humble and sincere working husband that only did what he had to do for the love of his family. It shows that beneath the rough and cold-blooded exterior of the mob boss Don Vito Corleone lies the humble beginnings and compassion of a family man.
All of this juxtaposed with that of the rise of Michael as the new Godfather, it really sets apart how different the two are, although they are family. Michael is all about the business, at times he does show his respects towards the importance of family (He refused to have Fredo harmed whilst his mother was alive), while at the same time his cold-blooded gangster side is what controls him as he shows no hesitation in issuing the order to murder his brother Fredo towards the film’s end. Michael won’t stop at anything to remain in power, even his marriage falls a part as his wife no longer feels the love they once shared, in essence Michael is nothing like his father and that is made no clearer than when the two are contrasted right next to one another.
By the film’s end we are greeted with a flashback of the Corleone family during a birthday of Don Vito. During the scene we see Michael announce his enlistment into the army to fight in the war much to the disapproval of his brothers and family except Fredo, ironically he is the only one who supports his decision. The scene ends with Michael alone at the dinner table while the rest of the family leaves to greet Don Vito, the family can be heard in the back singing while Michael sits in the table, the film then cuts to Michael on a park bench alone staring out into space further emphasizing the displacement Michael feels towards his family, that he is a loner and that his actions should not come off as a surprise but more seen as a long time coming.
Ultimately, The Godfather Part II brings more depth into the characters of the Corleone family, especially in that of Michael and Vito, it is a tragic film at it’s core and it is this tragedy that drives the movie. Another classic, this film I personally enjoyed much more than the first Godfather.