Monday, September 1, 2008
In some ways, it's like my list of squabbles about The Godfather were magically sent back in time to Coppola while he was making the sequel. The women are still not as fleshed out as the men, and don't get much screen time, but it seemed like they had more to do here. Maybe they don't have much impact on the plot, but at least here Kaye's actions seem to have an impact on Michael. That's something.
It's even longer than the first movie, but there's no subplot like the Sicilian diversion in the first movie that felt like it didn't build to anything. Here everything seems to have a clear purpose.
And I think Michael's arc is far more compelling and appropriately modulated. I complained that in the original, the arc was supposed to be him going from a normal guy to an amoral crime boss, except that they seemed to skip the transition. One minute he wanted nothing to do with the family business, the next minute he's killing people. Here, Michael is already corrupted, and it's more about seeing exactly how low he will sink. And he actually seems conflicted in places, like maybe it's all starting to wear on him.
So it's kind of odd then that this movie lacks the entertainment factor that the first film had. I mean, if there is one thing I can see for the first movie, it's that it's incredibly watchable, and moves from one entertaining sequence to the next. There's Lucio Brazzi's murder, Don Vito's attempted murder, Michael trying to move his father into another hospital room, the assassination in the restaurant, Sonny beating up his brother in law, the big montages of assassinations at the end, and tons others. Constant sequences of action and suspense.
This one (in part because a lot of the corrections I mentioned) is more introspective and has less forward momentum. There are a couple excellent set-pieces (especially young Vito's murder of a local mafioso), but they are few and far between. Mostly it's long sequences of dialogue, as the characters weave a very intricate plot full of double-crosses and hidden agendas.
All in all, this was the better of the two films, because it had a greater depth of emotion and delved much further in fleshing out this world and these characters. But I can't help but think I would have full-on loved it if it had married these improvements with the more "action"-packed style of the first film. I mean, if it was a trade-off, then they made the right call. But I suspect that Coppola was just trying to make a more serious film this go-round, and not as much of a crowd-pleaser.
I'm actually looking forward to watching the much maligned final chapter next week. I'm thinking since I liked these first two but was not completely fucking enamoured with them like the rest of the planet, I won't be holding it up to unreasonable expectations and I will be satisfied if it's just an okay movie.