The Godfather Part III is a terrible sequel. It has to be like this. Doesn’t everyone say that? The Sopranosthe Muppets, every other rowdy movie critic with a YouTube channel – spin all over pop culture, you can find the third Godfather as the butt of jokes. Whether it is Al Pacino’s hair, Sofia Coppola‘s acting, or Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzos script, not a single element in the film went well. That is, until the re-edited version titled The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone came out in 2020 and finally set things straight, ending the trilogy on a good note.
Or so much of the copy given to Part III went. The fact is that The Godfather Part III received mixed to positive reviews when it first came out, and it was a contender for many of the big awards at the 1991 Oscars. The fact is, too, that the code cut is almost exactly the same as the theatrical release. Except for the opening scene and the last seconds, there were no substantial changes. Anyone who wrote about how the code cut was an eye opener as their eyes were opened to the same movie that has been making all the cheap shots for the past 32 years.
And here’s another fact: the code cutting doesn’t fix what’s wrong with Part III – insofar as there is something seriously wrong with it.
If I seem angry, it’s because I never understood what was so offensive about it The Godfather Part III. Coppola and Puzo’s choice to prioritize spiritual concerns over the drug-heavy plots Paramount had in the years between The Godfather Part II and the third movie was inspired. Pacino is excellent as a Michael Corleone who is shaved, haunted and remorseful. The bastard cousin Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia) is a much nicer and more dangerous successor to Michael than a son would have been (another Paramount idea). Connie Corleones (Talia Shire) turn to villains is compelling, as is Kay’s (Diane Keaton) steadfast refusal to release Michael for his past. Carmine CoppolaThe music is beautiful, the costumes and sets are opulent, and the elaborate climax – next to the opera Cavalleria rusticana with Vincent’s orchestrated hits — is one of the highest highlights of the trilogy.
I also can’t understand the attraction of the code cut. As noted, it’s only slightly edited, but the only edits I find an improvement are some color timing. The opening of the theatrical performance on the ruins of the Corleone compound on Lake Tahoe, leading up to the ceremony of awarding Michael a high Catholic honor, gives a better picture of Michael’s state of mind. After that, the only decorations on the code cut his seconds of character interactions and a few scenes with Eli Wallach‘s wily Don Altobello. None of the lost moments were essential, but the character beats helped to illustrate various relationships, and Don Altobello is one of the best things about Part III; cutting his part did nothing but provoke a little devilish charm.
And I’ll even stick my neck out for Sofia Coppola’s work as Mary Corleone. Is she rough around the edges? Yes. Mary may be an awkward teenager, but there are moments in the film where the awkwardness isn’t recorded as authentic, at least not in the way it should for the story. But the weakest spots of the younger Coppola’s performance are those of exposition or relaxed conversation. When called upon to be flirtatious, heartbroken, or a sacrificial lamb for all the sins of her father and family, Sofia delivers.
All this well in the theatrical version of Part III, and we should all point and laugh at it because it’s not as brilliant as two of the best movies ever made? If not The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Godfather Part III is above the will of Return of the Jedi, The Dark Knight Risesor Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Damn, I think it’s more in my Blu-ray player than the first two godfathers.
Part of the reason for that, of course, is that the first two godfathers are longer and better; when I go to see them, I want to have the time to see everything. Part III might be good, but it has flaws that make it easier to get to the highlights. Some of the dialogue is weak, so weak it could almost be from an AI designed to spit Puzo-esque lines. Other parts seem contradictory (Michael sold the casinos a while ago… but he’s giving away shares from the sale of the casinos?) There are one or two scenes (none of Don Altobello’s, and they’re all saved for the code cut) that do nothing for the plot or characters and just seem to exist.
But these are small potatoes. if The Godfather Part III has a near-fatal error, such as: Leonard Maltin once Sofia’s performance is described, it’s not dialogue or padding or casting. It is in the lack of clarity for the plot of the antagonists.
Ambiguity runs through the Godfather trilogy. The first film never shows Don Barzini actively fighting the Corleone family, nor does it explain the similarity between Barzini and the Tattaglia family. The second film does not address what information Fredo (John Cazale) gave Hyman Roth (Lee Strasberg) which led to the attempted hit on Michael. In neither case was elaboration necessary. It doesn’t matter what deal Barzini and Tattaglia had; all that matters is they had one, it brought down Sonny (James Caan), and it therefore widens the scope of the Corleone’s revenge. It also doesn’t matter what Fredo Roth told; what matters is that he betrayed his brother.
The details of the deals and betrayals are more important in Part III. Certain characters need to know what’s going on in the third act, and I imagine the audience is meant to understand as well. That’s not easy to do. The scheme, I think, is this: shadowy forces in the Italian government and organized crime, controlled by Don Lucchesi (Enzo Robutti) have transferred millions from the Vatican Bank, with the complicity of Archbishop Gilday (Donald Donnelly). They have also used the international real estate company Immobiliare to launder ill-gotten gains. To cover the theft, Gilday agrees to Michael’s proposed acquisition of Immobiliare in exchange for a $600 million down payment on the Vatican Bank. When Michael makes it clear that his intentions are fair, that he will not facilitate money laundering through Immobiliare, Lucchesi uses accountant Frederick Keinszig (Helmut Berger) to stop the deal, while his American ally Altobello indirectly tries to have Michael killed.
i say i think this is the scheme, because it is never described in one sitting. Individual pieces are explained throughout the film, some very subtly, and some with that bad dialogue I mentioned. Partial disclosures and trust in an audience’s perception is often beneficial, but in this case, characters who need to be aware of the developments in this scheme don’t seem to be getting the information they need, or at least not in any way. which is clearly registered.
The code cutting doesn’t fix this. None of the publicly available images for Part III could. This is a scripting issue and one likely related to production issues. Coppola and Puzo took six months to turn their complex plot into a screenplay. Paramount gave them six weeks, forcing the pair to work out a script and Coppola to frantically rewrite sections during filming. ‘s weakest moments The Godfather Part III come across as if not a first draft, then a work in progress. early versions of Part II have similar rough spots, but that film needed the time—and Coppola had the punch—to polish them. Part III wasn’t so lucky.
But think about this: even as an under-refined scenario, Part III still has some classic lines to add to the trilogy’s collection of quotes. It has such brilliant scenes as Michael’s diabetic stroke and his confession to the future Pope. It has Connie’s moral heritage, Vincent’s amalgamation of the best (and worst) traits of his ancestors, an excellent climax, and a harsh but fitting ending for Michael Corleone. No one is forced to like a movie, but those who seriously claim it The Godfather Part III is one of the worst made endings to a trilogy, haven’t seen enough of it yet.