The Godfather: Part III (1990)

the godfather part iii IMDb

Just as I was hesitant to watch the second Godfather movie, I also did not really want to watch this film either. I have only ever heard bad things about this movie and I was worried that if it was really terrible, it could taint the first two movies and make me like them less. That ended up not being the case, the first two films will always be brilliant, but this third instalment is a huge disappointment. Where the first two films felt like epic movies, this one feels more like a Lifetime movie that barely deserved a theatrical release. It feels like nearly everyone involved was there purely for the paycheque. The director, Francis Ford Coppola, has said as much in interviews. He was apparently struggling financially after a few of his recent movies flopped at the box office and needed the money. It was his motivating factor in making this film, and it suffers because of it.

The third instalment of The Godfather series follows an aging Michael Corleone (Al Pacino). He is still racked with guilt over the events of the second film where he had to order the murder of his older brother Fredo. Michael has always yearned to make his business legitimate, and not rely on the dirty dealings his father did, but has so far struggled to do so. He also begins to look for a successor to take over his empire when he is ready to step down. He believes he has found one in his older brother Sonny’s illegitimate son, Vincent (Andy Garcia). He begins to groom him to take over, but soon realises that Vincent has inherited his father’s temper, and it is something that he must learn to control if he is to be a successful heir to the Corleone throne.

One of the biggest problems I had with this film is the casting of Michael’s daughter. Coppola cast his daughter Sophia as Mary Corleone, and she struggles in the role. As much as she tries, Sophia Coppola is just not on the same level as professional actors like Al Pacino and Andy Garcia. It is a shame that the originally cast Winona Ryder had to pull out at the last minute. I’d have been really interested to see what she brought to the role, and if it was just a dismal performance by Coppola or just a terrible story. I didn’t really like the story arc for her character where she begins an affair with Vincent. They have referred to each other as cousins earlier in the film, so they are definitely aware they are related, I did not understand why this was a plot point when it was just really gross. If they had made it that Mary was not aware he was Sonny’s child, I’d have believed it a bit more. It would actually fit Vincent’s character as he was so desperate to be accepted by the Corelone family, it is something I could see his character do. I didn’t understand Mary’s motivation for starting an affair with her first cousin at all.

One of the things I did like about this film was the character of Connie Corleone Rizzi (Talia Shire), Michael’s sister. She has been left out of the family business in the first two films, but as Michael wants to step back more, she takes more of an interest in their dealings. It was interesting to see that she was very aware of what had been going on in her family all of these years and could be just as ruthless as her brothers, despite what they all thought.

In the end though, The Godfather 3 fails to satisfactorily wrap up The Godfather series. I think we would all do well to pretend this film doesn’t exist and just watch the first two again.

Rating: C-

Oh my god… this sequel is terrible. I don’t even want to consider Part III as part of The Godfather series. The story logically builds on the previous two films, but it’s just too logical. There is no heart here. Francis Ford Coppola made this movie because he needed the money, and boy, does it ever show.

Part III is set 20 years after Part II ends. Michael Corleone has spent the past several years restoring his reputation through charitable giving, while leaving his Mafia business to an enforcer. Still, Michael can’t escape his illegitimate past: as he tries to negotiate a huge real estate deal with the Vatican, other Mafia bosses insist on being part of this venture. When Michael refuses, he is tagged for assassination. What follows are the typical betrayals and whackings that we’ve come to expect from Godfather films, with a hefty dose of family drama interwoven throughout.

But here’s where the problem lies: this movie is too closely tied to the events of Part II. You can’t watch this without having watched at least the previous film. This is a big departure from the first two, where each act as standalone stories despite being related. It all technically makes sense, but it just doesn’t really work. Obviously it would be silly if this movie didn’t address things like Fredo’s death or Michael and Kay’s divorce, but there are just too many references to the previous movies that seem shoehorned in to remind you that you are watching a Godfather film.

At the same time, there are missing references to the past that might have improved the movie had they been included. Robert Duvall, who played the Corleone family’s consiglieri in previous films, opted not to return for Part III. One of the few successful things about this movie is the inclusion of actors from the previous two (besides Pacino, Diane Keaton and Talia Shire also reprise their roles), and adding one more recognizable face to the cast would have helped, especially since Keaton isn’t in much of the movie. Part III is also missing Vito Corleone’s presence, which was heavy in the first two. I understand that this is meant to be Michael’s story, but his journey has always been told in relationship to his father’s. It would have been interesting to incorporate more of Vito’s past into this film, possibly covering the 1920s to 1930s and filling in the gap between where the second movie ended and the first film starts.

I suppose I should weigh in on Sofia Coppola’s acting– god knows everyone else has. To be perfectly honest, she’s not great. I think her performance is maybe dogged harder than it should be because her father directed the movie, and it’s not like nepotism is anything new to Hollywood or even to these films (Talia Shire is Francis’ sister, after all). But I also think Coppola maybe knew his daughter was out of her league and might have done well to gently break this to her early on and recast the role. Still, Sofia does bring a sort of naivety to the role that works, so on some level her performance is a success.

Overall, this is a lackluster end to The Godfather series. The final scenes may be fitting punishment for Michael Corleone’s sins, however everything leading up to this is weak and convoluted. I would gladly watch the first two films again, but will definitely skip this one. (Though I will say that the movie poster for this one is better than those of the previous two movies.)

Rating: D+

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