The sequel to the heralded Godfather has an amazing level of expertise to live up to. With Oscar winner Marlon Brando out, it’s up to Al Pacino to take over the Corleone family, and that’s why this sequel is a better film than the original. It’s deeper, more involved, and in many ways, completes the first.
Michael Corleone, even with Brando’s iconic performance, is simply a more interesting character. The younger Corleone son dominates the screen, with a cold, heartless stare. His ability to stay calm in his “business” dealings is wonderful and captivating. He cares for no one, and even though it was previously assumed his family bond was strong, Part II show an entirely different side.
Part II is partially told in flashback, with Robert DeNiro playing a young Vito, raising his son in New York, and nearly penniless. Again, not to downplay Brando’s work in the first film, but there’s more to dissect here from DeNiro’s story as it is told. It also serves to showcase how Michael was brought up, and why he would forgo a clean lifestyle despite a college education and military service.
As in the original, Francis Ford Coppola directs with stunning realism. Late in this 200+ minute drama, the government holds a hearing to convict Michael of his crimes. The rather static scene uses only two camera angles as the Mafia leader is grilled, lending an air of authenticity to the proceedings. Nothing in Part II feels overdone or exaggerated. The sequel is likewise just as powerful in terms of its violence.
Despite the flashbacks, Part II also feels easier to follow. It clocks in 23 minutes longer than the first (and becoming the lengthiest of the trilogy), devoting more time to characters, deals, and development. Everything is cleanly explained, motivations are clear, and no questions should remain as the film fades out to credits on Pacino’s face.
There’s an immense amount of material to discuss when it comes to all three films, but rest assured that despite all of the praise given to the first, Part II is a better film, albeit by a slim margin. Al Pacino is Michael Corleone, and his Oscar nomination was well deserved.
As with the original, the first sequel has underwent a restoration for this Blu-ray release. Presented in an AVC encode, this is a noticeable step up from the original. Gordon Willis maintains his trademark dark look, and the disc delivers deeper blacks. Contrast does bloom intentionally again, although with less effect and few instances.
Mildly sharper, the film offers better detail on faces and clothing. Despite the orange/brown color timing, hues stand out more, particularly during long city shots. Grain is left intact without any noticeable spikes.
Likewise, Part II sounds slightly better as well. There are a few more instances of discrete effects, although nothing mind-blowing. The arrival of Vito on Ellis Island is impressive, offering positional work in all channels. There’s a nice violin tracking shot during a party, and all social events offer a nice level of immersion. The soundtrack is crisp, with solid highs that only seem mildly aged. Gunfire is minimal in the sequel, and stays front loaded, if separated in the stereo channels.
Part II is only available in a trilogy box set on Blu-ray. As such, the only specific extra is an excellent solo commentary from Francis Ford Coppola. All of the others reside on the fourth disc, and those can be viewed in our Godfather review.