Godfather Part 3
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Godfather Part 3

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After the huge success of the first two ‘Godfather’ films, many thought that it would be the end of the series. Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo had one more part of the story to tell and the result was ‘Godfather Part 3’. There are a lot of fans that consider this movie as unnecessary, just milking the cow after it had died. While it is not as good as the previous two films it is worthy capstone to the trilogy and absolutely a film that had to be made. It was not as dynamic as its predecessors but there was a story here that demanded to tell. It was the weakest member of the three films and will never join its brothers on the top cinema lists but it is enjoyable and ties up loose ends. In the first film the audience tracks Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) as he is pulled reluctantly at first into the organized crime business of his father. This is the loss of innocence. Michael initially acts out of a sense of family obligation to take his father’s place in the family syndicate. In act two Michael is at the top of the world, the undisputed boss of bosses. He has gained the world but lost his soul. The plot here is the corruption of a man who was basically good but yielded to the dark responsibility inherent with his position. What was needed was act three as provided here. Now Michael is an older man looking back at his life. He needs to redeem himself and atone for all the lives he ruined and the way he pushed away those who loved him. Without this film the story would hang in mid-air forever. This may not have been the strongest of the three but it provided the closure to these characters that the fans demanded and deserved.

The film started in 1979; Michael is now 59 years old and has been reflecting back on his life. He has conquered his world and is now rich and very powerful. Michael’s thoughts turn towards his children and just what legacy he will leave behind for them. He is the last of the original Corleone children. Sonny was murdered a long time ago; he ordered the hit on Fredo and his adopted brother Tom Hagen has died. The world he knew is dying off. The old ways are for the most part gone and the future seems more uncertain than ever. He is divorced from Kay (Diane Keaton) and has let her take full custody of their children Anthony (Franc D'Ambrosio) and Mary (Sofia Coppola). By now, they have become adults who weigh heavily on Michael’s mind.

In an attempt to keep up with the changing times and make amends of sorts for his past, Michael has been turning his enterprises into legitimate businesses. He has also started a major charity foundation to use his vast wealth to help people. The old mob ways have been for the most part left in the past. The violence that was the cornerstone of building his empire is now hardly ever used. He feels that his son is safe from entering his world. Anthony wants to be an opera singer who would mean dropping out of law school. This leaves Michael somewhat conflicted since he still holds on to the dream of having his son become a respected professional, a similar dream that Don Vito had for him so long ago. Mary is spiraling out of control becoming a wild child mob princess much like her aunt Connie (Talia Shire) was. Connie has become bitter and makes more and more demands on Michael. A new family member comes on to the scene, Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia), the illegitimate son of Sonny. Like his father Vincent is wild, prone to fits of violence and on the verge of being completely out of control.

As with other films, religion plays a vital role here. Michael is trying to buy out the shares in a multinational corporation, Immobiliare, from the Vatican for $600,000,000. To this end Michael is pressuring Archbishop Gilday (Donal Donnelly) who has caused a huge debt in the Vatican’s coffers. This deal is further complicated for Michael when an aged boss from New York, Don Altobello (Eli Wallach) informs Michael that the other families demand a piece of the Immobiliare pie. While all of this plotting and schemes are going on Michael pressures Gilday into making him a Commander of the Order of St. Sebastian. In Michael’s eyes this will give him some degree of legitimacy that he craves so badly. He makes the archbishop somewhat of a priest confessor trying desperately to unburden himself of his violent past. Once again Michael finds himself targeted for death by his old enemies. While most of the old ways are gone enough of the old-timers are still around to make the threat real and dangerous. In the end Michael is a broken man who cannot look back without realizing that he has nothing to leave the next generation.

As a third act of the story, this film is paced somewhat slower than the previous two. This may be one reason many fans view it as weaker than the previous movies. This is only natural since the point of this part of the story is the wind-up. It has the task of tying up loose ends and showing the autumn of the character’s lives. Michael tries his best to come full circle and become a legitimate businessman respected by everyone. He also wants to be viewed as a religious man. For him this will settle his score with God by doing good works through his charity. He ultimately finds that there is no escape from his past. He is the man he created and has to live and die with that legacy.

From the perspective of the audience, this movie is less able to stand on its own. The genius of part two is how it worked both as a film in its own merits and at the same time complimented the first movie. Since this film is intended to be the capstone of the trilogy is more tightly bound to the other two. The audience is left with a question about Michael as to whether he was a victim of circumstances or freely chose his own path through life. In any case you cannot consider the other two films complete without including this one.

Posted 09/15/08            Posted  02/12/2020

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