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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Godfather Part II
Godfather Part II
Paramount // R // October 9, 2001
List Price: $105.90 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted October 2, 2001 | E-mail the Author
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The Godfather Review | The Godfather II Review | The Godfather III Review |The Godfather Bonus Disc Review
The Movie:

One of the bigger cinematic arguements of all time seems to be whether or not the sequel to "The Godfather" surpasses the original. Although the sequel does present a wider scope and more than one story, it works nicely as a companion piece to the original. The first story continues the story of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), who has taken over the family business from father Vito (Marlon Brando in the original). The second story goes backwards in time and shows the audience Vito (Robert Deniro this time)'s rise to power.

The different stories could have been awkwardly put together, but director Francis Ford Coppola handles the transitions between the two quite well; there's nothing jarring about going back and forth to rejoin the events of the other tale. Both are equally interesting, as well. I especially enjoyed Deniro's performance as the young Vito, as he starts to become colder and more calculating, overthrowing the local leader. Although Deniro's performance isn't quite as memorable as Brando's, he does make the character his own and becomes bigger and bolder as the film goes forward. Pacino's performance is equally enjoyable; a subtle, but confident effort that - like his role in the first picture - was nominated for an Oscar (unfortunately, he won for neither).

The script by director Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo is, as with the first picture, wonderfully written and detailed. The dialogue is fascinating and the story is well-structured. Interestingly enough, one of the elements where I do feel that the second feature is somewhat more enjoyable than the first is the area of pacing. Although the second feature is longer than the first and the longest of the three at nearly three and a half hours, it seems to move faster than the other two. The editing by Barry Malkin (who also worked on Ford Coppola's "Rainmaker"), Richard Marks (the upcoming "Riding In Cars With Boys") and Peter Zinner ("Officer and A Gentleman") keep the film moving and the story flowing smoothly. Two additional crew members whose work was wonderful on the original picture, cinematographer Gordon Willis (whose work captures the atmosphere even better here) and production designer Dean Tavoularis, also return to shine in their roles again here.

We seem to live in a period where many films that achieve some sort of mild to moderate success opens up the possibility for a sequel, but it seems that the only difference is higher salaries for those involved, since they've achieved some success with the original. Yet, less thought and ambition always seems to go into the pictures after the original. "Godfather Part 2" had the studio stepping back after being nervous about the production of the first film and simply letting Ford Coppola do his business. The filmmaker certainly had a difficult task ahead of him to continue this story with many of these characters at the same level, but he really succeeded and pulled it off remarkably well.


The DVD

VIDEO: "The Godfather Pt. 2" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen by Paramount and American Zoetrope studios. Although this presentation of the sequel is not without problems, it at least does present a smoother overall presentation than the original picture. The cinematography of Gordon Willis was gorgeous on the first picture and remains astoundingly rich on the sequel. The presentation does justice to the cinematographer's work, as the image is consistently at least pleasantly crisp and well-defined, with only a few minor instances of softness.

The main problem that made the presentation of the first picture suffer was print flaws. Small speckles, marks and further blemishes were apparent at a rate that wasn't constant, but it was often enough to cause concern and some distraction. The sequel does appear noticably cleaner - although there are some minor speckles here and there at times, it really doesn't go further than that in terms of wear. A few minor instances of edge enhancement and a trace or two of pixelation appear, but again, these are not distracting and definitely less of a problem than the occasional instance of visible wear. Due to the length of the second picture, it was felt that spacing the film out between two DVDs would help keep the video quality optimal.

Colors still appeared rich and beautiful throughout much of the movie, not showing any problems. Flesh tones also remained accurate and natural. Again, although this was not a presentation without some problems and blemishes, it did appear more consistently crisp and clean than the original. I spotted the layer change on the first disc at 1:05:31.

SOUND: The "Godfather" sequel also does present the film with a new Dolby Digital 5.1. Unfortunately, the original mono soundtrack has again been left off the DVD. As noticably improved as the image quality is between the first and second pictures, the audio quality here is more enjoyable, as well. The film is, like the first, mainly dialogue-driven, but the surrounds do open up things nicer during this second picture, as some sound effects, music and ambient sounds were distributed to the rear speakers.

Thankfully, these instances also sounded less artificial and thin than the surround use in the first picture. Although dialogue generally sounded okay, anytime anyone yelled, speech did tend to sound a bit thin. Still not an entirely remarkable sound presentation, but better than the first.

MENUS:: What most will find very enjoyable is the fact that the usual Paramount "Warning" menus don't show up on "The Godfather". Aside from a little "rating reason" screen, the film simply starts up after its inserted. The menus themselves are very subtle, with only a lightly animated main menu and basic sub-menus.

EXTRAS::

Commentary: This is a commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola. Although this track from the director for the second film remains very interesting and informative, I found it a little less engaging than the commentary for the first film. Where on that track he discussed the amount of problems that he came up against while making the movie, here he mainly discusses the story elements, working with the actors and some production history. There is some discussion about how the director was able to get the studio to back away and allow him to keep control this time around, but the majority of the commentary has the director commenting on plot elements and analyzing characters and events.

Final Thoughts: "The Godfather Part 2" is a stellar second film in the series, an ambitious and successful picture that works as a fine companion piece to the original. Paramount's DVD presents audio/video quality that are not without a few problems, but this second film does look and sound noticably better.

Further reviews in the "Godfather" set will be arriving during the next week.

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