If anything, the third part of the Godfather series of films is symbolic of when too many sequels are greenlighted, and consequently, the film is doomed to fail. More often than not, the reason why these films crash and burn is because of major studios acting like Adelphia executives and wanting more money, and in using the previous films’ successes as leverage, they lose sight of things like quality. It’s happened to other trilogies. And if you put together previous films with the reputation that the first two Godfather films have, the only question left to answer is whether or not the third film would be a minor or major letdown. Most of the essential players returned, with the exception of Robert Duvall. (Duvall said Francis Ford Coppola never really negotiated with him, while Coppola says that Duvall asked for more money, so who knows?) Mario Puzo helped out with another part of the story, so why did this film not live up to the hype?
Well, this is by no means a slap to Coppola and Puzo, but the story was too nostalgic. A good portion of the film was told with clips from the other movies. While understandable, it didn’t address some of the performances from the cast. Pacino’s performance was pretty good and more subtle than I first remembered, and Andy Garcia’s role as Vincent (Sonny’s bastard child) still stands up after these years too. But Talia Shire as Connie clearly is the evil mastermind behind a lot of the Corleones’ present activities in an underappreciated performance. And in considering the evolution of her character from Part 1 to Part 3, her transformation was a little more gradual, but on par with Michael’s. Shire definitely deserves more praise than she got in this series. On to the bigger question: did Sofia Coppola as Michael’s daughter Mary REALLY stink up the joint in this film? Well, I think that she’s gotten some unfair slams through the years, considering she had little experience on a movie set aside from watching her Dad direct. I mean, imagine how good you would be when you’re sharing scenes with Al Pacino. Exactly! For her to be a scapegoat as to why Part III wasn’t a good film is a little unfair.
Is this film a satisfying ending to the trilogy? By and large, it is, and the film on its own isn’t that bad. But within the context of the Puzo/Coppola narrative, it’s a step sideways and not one of the most well-planned ideas. After releasing the trilogy in a boxed set a couple of years ago, they have finally released the third film as a standalone Blu-ray for the cinemaphile.
I own the Godfather films in all of their home video for television formats. I have the old CED video discs, Laserdisc, VHS, DVD, and now the Blu-ray version of the film. As much as I’ve enjoyed these films over and over again, it’s almost as much fun to look at the evolution of home entertainment with these films. The first wide version was the CED release. The laser was only the trilogy presented in chronological order as it was done on television. It was full frame but included many of the deleted scenes incorporated back into the film. I’ve also seen them in the movies. Except for III, I was too young to remember the nuances of the films from those early 1970’s release dates. All I remember is that I fell in love with them then and continue to treasure them today. Perhaps one day the technology will exist, and these films will look even better than they do now without compromising the original films. I’m not holding my breath.
The Godfather Part III is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 20 mbps. This is a very nice high-definition image presentation, delivering in almost every way. Because of the length of the films the bit rates are down around the low 20’s mbps, but that doesn’t seem to keep the image from delivering the goods. This is an almost perfect rendition of the film. The brilliant cinematography is evident in every frame of this restoration. There is plenty of the soft washing grain that was always intended in this film. The yellow and red texture of the film remains just as it was always intended to appear. Dark scenes are incredibly dark. You lose detail here as objects disappear into near total blackness, just as it was intended to do. What shines most here is the level of detail that was never possible at home before. Black levels are strong in their presence, but not full of the detail you’ve come to expect in a modern HD release. Again you have to realize that everything you are seeing here is intended. The reproduction is outstanding.
The Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio delivers in ways you simply have to hear to believe. I was glad that there wasn’t an effort to create an overly aggressive surround mix, since that’s not the way the film was released. Most of it happens up front, and that suits me just fine. Dialog is fine and always perfectly placed. What makes this a winner is the presentation of the fabulous score. From the first trumpet theme to the delicate strings of the closing credits, the music shines through as powerfully as ever.
The only extra is the commentary track with Coppola. Clearly stung by the drubbing that Sofia got, the track’s main purpose seems to be a defense of Sofia by her father, who directed the film. That’s a natural reaction and very understandable; I just wish that it didn’t take up so much of the track. Coppola also vents about how the studio pressured him to get the film done, and explains in detail why Sofia was cast and the options he had to face. It’s fascinating in how passionate Coppola was and is for the film, but it gets a little repetitive after awhile.
Most of you probably bought the film as part of the boxed set awhile back, and don’t have a reason to buy it now. For those who haven’t, it’s definitely worth renting to see the end of the Corleone family in several different ways, and is part of an unforgettable film experience.
Parts of this review were written by Aric Mitchell