The Godfather: Part III (2 of 4)

spoilers*

Eleven years after part II, Coppola finished his Godfather films with the last chapter in Michael Corleone’s life. Nominated for seven Oscars without a win, the third and final installment of the Godfather saga is substantially weaker. For many familiar with the lore of the Godfather films, or simply those with movie-geek friends, you’ve probably heard something like: “Just don’t watch the third one.” I don’t think the third movie is a bad movie, it’s just unnecessary, and really it leaves our character Michael in the same state he was at the end of film two.

In further attempts to legitimize the family business, Michael, now old and gray, makes an incredible donation to a charity he has created in the name of his father The Vito Corleone Foundation. He officially opens the foundation with a generous deposit of $100 million. The money garnered from his life-time of ambitious underworld activities. The casinos and illegal business sold or handed off and his debts paid,  Michael considers himself semi-retired and out of the gangster world.

But his violent past is not easily concealed or forgotten. So when Michael makes a deal with the Vatican. He will eliminate the 700 million dollar deficit in their budget, and in exchange become the leader and large share holder of the Vatican’s eight billion dollar world-wide real estate company, Immobiliare.

Holding back his retirement and retribution from his past is his nephew Vincent (a bastard son of Santino), played by an excellent Andy Garcia. Vincent wants to “preserve the family”, and achieve the power that Vito, his grandfather, once had. In a mix of care, necessity and sadness Michael takes Vincent under his wing as his protegé.

When all of Michael’s old criminal friends are massacred at a dinner, via a helicopter-machine-gun surprise attack (the third film got classier what can I say…) Vincent takes the initiative and “hits back”. On the person responsible, Joey Zasa. As both his uncle and his grandfather did, Vincent begins his rise to power with a murder, a single violent and vengeful murder. The cycle begins again.

Michael, devastated by his past sins, especially what has happened to his family, immediate and extended, finally confesses his wrongs and repents, vowing to redeem himself if the Lord would only give him the chance.

Michael ultimately gives over power as Godfather to his nephew making him Don Vincent Corleone. Under the singular condition that Vincent give up his love and not pursue Michael’s daughter Mary (Yes, his first cousin. Michael thought it was wrong too).

The greatest moment is a close up of Michael. Everything he has done has earned him only death and suffering for his entire family and everyone he loves. Searing, crying and screaming do nothing–he is completely muted.

The problem with Part III is not the acting, or the pace, or the editing, or the lighting, or the landscapes (which are incredible!), or even the inclusion of far more profanity than the other films combined (it was the ’90s). The problem with Part III is it’s mind-numbing over explication. If you understood nothing from the first two films (and you’d best give up movies altogether if you sat through 6 hours of the story and it breezed over you) the third film will explain everything. The characters literally sit and dialogue through their feelings of the last 30 years of their lives. It’s atrocious. It is an absolute horror. These actors who delivered passion and emotion and excellence in two masterfully scripted and directed and cast pieces of cinematic history are forced to patronize the viewers.

This is the epitome of my frustration and it is a trend becoming more common in Hollywood today. I end here with a small redemption of Part III, by saying that the last half hour of the film does encroach on the same menacing and unpredictable magic that drove the first two films toward their pinnacles. It is the end of a saga and as the end of every film, or film series, we love–it is bittersweet.

Is the third installment in the saga forgivable? Could Sohpia Coppola be any worse? Is Andy Garcia more intimidating than his uncle and grandfather? Comment in the sidebar!

<——    Over and Up

Tyler

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    • Anonymous 342
    • October 14th, 2010

    I watched the Godfather a long while back and did not like it. But reading your take on the series makes me want to give it a second chance. Perhaps there is something to these films which I was not yet mature enough to grasp at the time of their watching. Thanks for kindling a spark in me T.S.

    • Anon, Glad I could get you interested in such a great film series. Hope you enjoy them much more the second time round!

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