The Godfather Part III is a terrible sequel. It has to be. The Sopranos, the Muppets, and every other loudmouth film reviewer with a YouTube channel turn anywhere in pop culture, you can find the third Godfather as the butt of jokes. No one aspect of the film went to plan until the re-edited version titled The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone came out in 2020 and finally made things right.
The fact is that The Godfather Part III received mixed to positive reviews when it first appeared, and it was a contender for many of the major Oscar nominations at the 1991 Oscars. Other than the opening sequence and the last few seconds, there were no significant changes. Everyone who commented on how the Coda cut was an eye-opener was drawn to the same movie that has taken all the cheap shots for the last 32 years.
And here's another fact: The Coda reduction does not correct what's wrong with Part III to the extent that anything's seriously wrong with it.
If I am confused, it's because I've never understood why The Godfather Part III was so offensive. Pacino is wonderful as a Michael Corleone who is sheared, haunted, and angry. Michael Mancini's nephew, Kay (Diane Keaton), is a much more pleasant and dangerous replacement to Michael than a son would have been (another Paramount idea). The extended climax juxtaposing the opera Cavalleria rusticana with Vincents orchestrated songs is one of
The Coda cut is only marginally edited, but the only adjustments I find more beneficial are some color timing. The theatrical scenes opening on the ruins of the Corleone compound at Lake Tahoe, leading up to Michael's receiving a high Catholic award, paint a better picture of Michael's state of mind, and Don Altobello is one of the best parts of Part III; removing his part only leeches out some devilish charm.
Sofia Coppola plays Mary Corleone in a film that is rough around the edges. Yes, Mary may be awkward, but there are times in the film when the awkwardness doesnt register as authentic, at least not in the way it should for the narrative. But the weakest spots in the younger Coppolas performance are those that involve exposition or relaxed conversation.
Are you aware that the Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is better than The Dark Knight Rises or Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on Blu-ray? That's because I've owned the first two Godfathers.
Part of the reason for that is that the first two Godfathers are longer and better; if im going to watch them, I want the time to see the whole thing. Some dialogue is weak, so weak that it might be from an artificial intelligence program that has been engineered to produce Puzo-like sentences. Other sections are contradictory (Michael sold the casinos a while ago, but all of them were saved for the Coda cut) but they just appear to exist.
These are small potatoes. If The Godfather Part III has a near-fatal flaw, as Leonard Maltin once referred to Sofias performance, it isnt dialogue or padding or casting. Its in the antagonists' plot being ambiguous.
The Godfather trilogy is overrun with ambiguity. The first film does not reveal Don Barzini actively fighting with the Corleone Family, nor does it explain the interaction between Barzini and the Tattaglia Family. In neither case was a detailed explanation required.
In Part III, the details of the agreements and betrayals play a significant role. I imagine that the audience will understand what's going on in the third act, as well. They've also used Immobiliare's international real estate company to defraud millions of dollars.
I say that I believe this is the scheme because it is never spelled out at once. Some sections of film are explained quite subtly, others with that sloppy dialogue I mentioned earlier. Piecemeal revelations and trust in an audience's perception are often beneficial, but in this case, characters who need to be aware of developments in this scheme seem to be unaware of it, or at least not in a way that registers.
The Coda cut does not resolve this, nor does the publicly available footage for Part III. This is a script issue, which is likely to be related to production difficulties. Coppola and Puzo were given six weeks to complete their complex plot into a screenplay. Later drafts of Part II have similar flaws, but Coppola had the time and expertise to polish them up. Part III was not so fortunate.
Part III, while being under-refined, has some classic lines to add to the trilogy's collection of quotes. It has such brilliant scenes as Michaels diabetic stroke and his confession to the future pope. It has Vincents' best (and worst) traits, an outstanding climax, and a harsh but fitting end for Michael Corleone.