THOMASEMMET’s review published on Letterboxd:
You hear the stories. There's this sequel you see, this magical film that equals or perhaps betters the original. Its called the Godfather Part II. You'll love it, they whisper as they dismiss the idea that sequels that are actually better than the original are restricted to Batman films solely (Returns is better than Batman, fight me at a social distance).
The Godfather Part II is not a bad film. It is in fact a finely made film with some good performances from its smaller parts- Fredo, Hyman Roth, James Caan is better in this than The Godfather. The problem is that its stuck with two mediocre performances at its centre. Al Pacino, so wonderfully restrained in The Godfather, is somehow let loose to shout at the furniture and presumably a godchild at some point(?). All of the interesting aspects of his character, the reluctance to be a mafia man, the evolution into a scared killer for the sake of filial duty, hes like sicilian Hamlet, are wiped away for this dead eyed monster who of course is going to murder his brother, taking all dramatic tension out of the main plotline.
As for Robert De Niro, well I watched the film last week and I cannot remember a single thing he did except scamper across some rooftops. An Oscar for that? Bah. Where’s John Cazale’s Oscar? Or even a nomination. Once again let down by the Academy Awards.
And don’t even get me started on the story. Is there one really? Michael’s house gets shot up “WHERE [HIS] WIFE SLEEPS”, he yells at a particularly odious rug in his old house. He half assedly tries to solve the crime but ends up only accidentally finding out who it was. Then he’s on trial. Then he’s sitting on a deckchair melting a photo of Fredo with his dead eyes while a gunshot goes off in the distance. That last part might be in my imagination, but what stone cold classic causes someone to drift off that much. And the B story… well, it sort of happens. De Niro plays with James Caan in a nappy, he makes much of how his shopfront for importing oil is going to look. Oh yes, sorry he gets revenge on the guy who killed his whole family. I literally forgot that happened. Thats how disinterested I was in Young Vito. If some poor soul happened to watch The Godfather Part II before seeing the stone cold classic that is The Godfather they would be exceptionally confused. Part Deux is just bookends for the superior original. Coppola said he wanted Part II to be haunted by the original but I’m not sure he meant totally overshadowed and subsumed by it. I’d probably have an easier time starting Breaking Dawn Part II having not seen a single Twilight film, because I have a feeling all five of them can stand on their own two terrible feet better than this afterbirth that Part II turns out to be.
In conclusion The Godfather Part II is not the unicorn I was sold it would be.