The Godfather Part II (1974)
Making a sequel that can manage to live up to the expectations of the original is an achievement in itself. But when the original film is being universally hailed as the greatest motion picture ever made, measuring up to that same feat is, without a doubt, a near impossible task. But then, that’s exactly what The Godfather Part II manages to accomplish by building upon the original in ways most sequels never dare to and is, arguably, the only film that has the calibre to challenge the reputation of The Godfather. Boasting all the ingredients that made its predecessor one of world cinema’s greatest achievements, The Godfather Part II remains one of the most critically & artistically successful films in cinema history and amongst all sequels, is certainly the most honoured.
The Godfather Part II tells the story of two generations of the Corleone family, thus serving as both a sequel & a prequel to the original, transitioning within the same film. The prequel portion is illustrated in a series of flashbacks and depicts the life of Vito Corleone, played by Marlon Brando in the previous film & by Robert De Niro in this one, and shows his rise from a poor immigrant in 1910s New York into a highly powerful & respected boss of the Corleone crime family. The sequel portion deals with the aftermath of the events of the first film and continues the journey of Michael Corleone as the new Don of the Corleone family, and shows him tightening his grip on his family business and expanding it into Vegas & Cuba. The two parallel dramas within the same film also serve as antonyms of each other, considering that one part follows Vito Corleone’s rise to power through love & respect while the other part represents the fall of Michael Corleone from the ruthless boss of a vast empire into a lonely & empty shell of a human being.
Continuing the saga from where it signed off in the previous part, Francis Ford Coppola & Mario Puzo, this time, bring the origin & evolution of the Corleone crime family on-screen through flashbacks but also carry forward its current legacy in the sequel segment of the story. The direction by Francis Ford Coppola is even better than it was in The Godfather and presents him in complete control over all aspects of this film. The screenplay is very well written by Coppola & Mario Puzo, adapting the prequel part from the novel while envisioning the sequel part from scratch and, just like the previous film, contains some of the most memorable quotes in movie history. Cinematography inherits the same Technicolor print from the original and adds different contrasts to distinguish the two parallel timelines within the film. Editing is equally impressive for it balances the two stories beautifully and keeps the pace in check throughout its 200 minutes of runtime. Art Direction & Set Decoration shows a major improvement over its predecessor. And finally, the music by Nino Rota is even better, building upon the legendary score of The Godfather and exploring new territories in this one.
One of this saga’s biggest strength has been its remarkable cast & splendid performances. The Godfather Part II features Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, John Cazale, Diane Keaton & Talia Shire in their reprising roles and also adds Robert De Niro, Lee Strasberg, Michael V. Gazzo & others to its strong list of cast. Al Pacino has given many spectacular performances in his film career but his work in this film continues to remain his best. The cold & ruthless Michael Corleone, played exceptionally well by Al Pacino, returns to screen as more evolved & unforgiving and this performance of Pacino ranks among the finest that cinema has to offer. Robert De Niro comes next with an equally magical performance as young Vito Corleone and brilliantly modified his voice & expressions to match the attributes which Marlon Brando brought to this character in the previous film. John Cazale gets more screen time & delivers a heartbreaking performance as Fredo Corleone. Lee Strasberg & Michael V. Gazzo also chip in with strong inputs as Hyman Roth & Frank Pentangeli, respectively. Other impressive contributions come from Robert Duvall as Tom Hagen, Diane Keaton as Kay Adams-Corleone, Talia Shire as Connie Corleone, & Gastone Moschin as Don Fanucci.
Overall, everything about this sequel just works. It is more star-studded than the first film and all the filmmaking methods introduced in The Godfather have evolved seamlessly in the second part. Fans will always be divided over which is a superior film but there is no denying that both movies are excellent examples of flawless filmmaking. As for the two stories that are masterfully intertwined within this film, I personally prefer the flashback segment more than Michael’s tale for it was much better filmed, more captivating & also added quite an amount of artistic touch to the whole film, comparatively. From start to finish, this masterpiece improves upon the original in such impressive ways that not only it succeeds as a successful follow-up to its predecessor but also shares the same class of greatness with it and both films, since their inception, have been highly instrumental in influencing its genre as well as cinema aesthetics. Displaying greatness in all aspects of filmmaking, The Godfather Part II is an ingenious work of expert artistry in both front & behind the camera and serves wonderfully as an epic conclusion to the violent history of the Corleone crime family. Certainly the greatest & most respected sequel of all time and one of the greatest treasures of world cinema, The Godfather Part II comes one hundred percent recommended.