The Godfather Coda: The Demise of Michael Corleone Assessment: Copppla delivers the perfect model of his flawed masterpiece
The moment the familiar varieties of Nino Rota’s Godfather theme begin to play, it immediately envelops the viewer in the new experience, The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone. Famous master Francis Ford Coppola not only re-cut the third film in the franchise, but also changed some scenes that had been around for years, rearranged others and even shortened the film by 4 minutes. Years ago when this film was released it seemed to polarize many viewers. After the events of the first two films, the director felt that Michael Corleone (who was played brilliantly by Al Pacino throughout the series) had to pay for what he had done in the previous films. The audience wanted more action. They didn’t seem interested in Corleone’s older, nuanced perspective. At least when the movie bowed in 1990, the film was viewed in many circles as a well-made failure. It wasn’t recorded like the first two films.
Flashforward 30 Years and The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone aka The Godfather: Part III plays out as something else. Through our 2020 lens, we see how this film is about both reconciliation and power shift. To briefly summarize the first two films: The Godfather saw a reluctant Michael Corleone take the family throne. His father had been attacked, Michael sought justice against the responsible men and he was drawn into a world he had tried to avoid all his life. The Godfather: In Part II, Michael promotes his blood ties to the family in ways you can never imagine. It all culminates in his killing his brother Fredo (the late and often great John Cazale). We end the film with Michael alone. He’s in a dark room, a dark place, and even though he has people bidding everywhere, no character is lost in a cinematic universe.
The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone is now recording the pieces. Michael leads the indictment of legitimizing the family business. He wants to leave something better through a big deal with the Vatican. Nothing is easy for Michael Corleone as there are always people who threaten his plans. Combine that with the fact that Corleone is much older now, not in the best of health, and you have a situation where a natural shift in power will take place. Michael is supported in many ways by Vincent (Andy Garcia), the son of his late brother Sonny. Like his father, Vincent has a very quick temper and that doesn’t always help Michael’s business. Connie (Talia Shire) also takes a more active role in family matters, which further complicates things. Michael is also conflicted by his ex-wife Kay (Diane Keaton), who remarried, but they also share two children, Anthony (Franc D’Ambrosio) and Mary (Sofia Coppola) They have a film that is slower had to be. He had to tie loose ends (as much as one could expect) and he had to deal with many of the sins of Michael’s past.
As a result, with the benefit of time, much works about what didn’t work for The Godfather: Part III works now. When Sofia Coppola was cast as Mary Corleone, it was viewed as a scandal. Many critics asked Coppola to give his daughter such an important role. Coppola himself felt he was doing him a favor. Winona Ryder, who was originally supposed to take on this role, fell ill and couldn’t. Many saw Sofia Coppola’s delivery being static, her twist as “California Cool,” so they wrote it off without really giving her performance a chance. Is it award winning? No, but it is in no way missing. It wasn’t her first time in her father’s films either, as she’d appeared in films like The Outsiders and Rumble Fish, among others. Over time, we see people grow and change. Why shouldn’t Mary be any different from her parents? Why didn’t she talk differently? Dress differently? Act differently? The time was the role of Mary Corleone, and it also showed us that Sofia is in every way the director who is and is not her father.
Initially, it was written that Al Pacino had a problem with some of Michael Corleone’s motivations. A big problem was that he didn’t see his character as a regret for his previous actions. It is proof of the acting work of Pacino that none of these feelings ever get into the frame of this film. At all times, Michael seems dedicated and determined to change the course on which in large part he has put his family. The way Michael acts in The Godfather Coda: The death of Michael Corleone is really different now. It makes sense that he would want to preserve his family legacy. It is understandable that he would go up against almost anyone in his goal for some form of salvation. As we can see, Michael can get close to Corleone, but the Father’s sins are too great and he never quite gets there.
The Vatican’s subplot was originally considered too confusing. It tarnished the story that was being told. It is not exactly clear what the terms of the contract between Corleone, the Vatican and the international Immobiliari are. This facet of the business, religious, and mafia entanglement remains in The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone. What remains is that Michael tries to reverse the image of his family company. All of this begins with a donation of $ 100 million to the Catholic Church. This is supposed to lubricate the wheels of the Immobiliari business, in which the Corleone family aims to acquire a large position. Confusing as this may be, Coppola seems to be targeting the business aspect of religion. I think it’s just Catholicism in this movie because that’s the world Coppola knows. It’s not like this film is an indictment against the Catholic Church. Coppola just seems to focus on the idea that religious institutions run by less than infallible people may not always follow the good book in their decision making. He doesn’t specifically call out the Catholic religion, and for that purpose the Vatican subplot plays better in this new version. Nor is this the only film that discusses such issues. There is a similar (if shorter) discussion of religious institutions in Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets. One character argues that “it’s a business” while another says, in other words, that the people who run it shouldn’t do it with that mentality.
Another layer that covers The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone is the power shift. As mentioned earlier, Michael is much older now. It will only be a matter of time before he takes a back seat and other members of the Corleone family take over. Michael seems ready to go along with it. But is he? Michael wants the family business to be run in a certain way. He even goes so far as to beat Connie and Vincent after they murdered Joey Zasa (Joe Mantegna) behind his back. This shift in power actually reflects what the United States is going through. We are seeing fundamental change at all levels of power. People want / wanted changes from the current outgoing administration. At the same time, people see hope in President Elect Joe Biden, while many others continue to view his upcoming term as politics. Michael wants to cede his power to other family members. At the same time, he’s not sure if things will continue as usual (which he initially never wanted; as mentioned above) or if his family will actually have a legacy that goes beyond gangster restrictions. Originally, it was his political stance on Coppola to make The Godfather and what made him discontinue the material. He saw Richard Nixon’s administration and felt that he could use it to tell the saga of this family. The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone takes this original impulse and ultimately connects everything together. Is it perfect? Maybe not. An imperfect Coppola film, however, will always spark more discussion than painting by number products, which many of its working contemporaries produced.
Initially, people were scandalized when George Hamilton took over the legal position that Robert Duvall played perfectly in the first Godfather films. It seems that there were some money problems, which is why Duvall eventually picked up a flyer about this production. I have to admit that when I first screened this film in the 1990s, I certainly found the version without Duvall Tom Hagen to be in short supply. However, the timing of this film was very kind, as was the editing process, as George Hamilton actually does a lot of great, low-key work here as BJ Harrison. Is he better than Duvall than Hagen? That’s not even really the point. They are different characters with an essential role in protecting the interests of the Corleone family. In this regard, Hamilton is certainly speaking well, and the test his performance originally received does not seem warranted (at least from me).
Finally, The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone also offers a slightly different ending. In fact, it is reminiscent of the ending of The Godfather: Part II. At the same time, and I know that this is a long way, it also leaves open the possibility that there is a godfather: Part 4.
Ultimately, The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone plays pretty well in today’s 2020 fast-food landscape. It’s slower, steeper in history, and more meaningful than many of the movies available to consumers. At the same time, we are in the middle of a pandemic. We’re also very nostalgic. Moviegoers don’t just want to flee. You want to be taken to a place where things make a little more sense. Where your feelings and emotions hold true. They want to know that while their fears are very real, they won’t be forever. Revisiting this revived episode of the Corleone Family will allow cinephiles and casual viewers to recall, narrate, and re-study all of the wonder that a maestro’s cinema has called Francis Ford Coppola has to offer.
Mario Puzo’s The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone will be released on Blu-ray and digital on December 8th and in selected cinemas on December 4th.
Subjects: The Godfather
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policies or position of Movieweb.
Longtime Movieweb contributor who uploaded 1-minute movie reviews to the internet via AOL before Youtube or social media. I make tons of direct movies that you can find on Amazon & Vimeo. DVDs are back and I like it!