Godfather: Part II, The (US - BD)
Gabe also takes a look at the second of Coppola's legendary features on Blu-ray
Once again, I find myself reviewing something I’ve already reviewed in a different packaging, and once again I’m not going to entirely re-write my thoughts. What follows here is a slightly re-edited version of the Godfather II section of my Godfather Trilogy review, including the video, audio sections, as nothing has changed from the releases besides the number of films and extras.
The Godfather Part II is the alpha and omega of film sequels. The same question applies here as with the original: is the film overrated? Is this really and truly the best sequel of all time? It’s definitely one of the best, but how does one realistically compare The Godfather Part II to Empire Strikes Back, The Two Towers, Toy Story 2, Dawn of the Dead or Aliens? The truth is you can’t entirely, but one must appreciate the (then) original take on a sequel, and the fact that these other attempts in improvement probably wouldn’t exist without Coppola’s example. The film fulfils all the requirements of a good sequel—a bigger budget, an upped ante, the characters we know are taken to hell and back, and the story is a proper continuation of themes, different but not unrecognizable. Coppola’s innovation was telling two giant stories, separated by a large chasm of time in the same film. Even more innovative is the fact that the two stories don’t line up chronologically—Vito’s story sort of leads into the first film, and Michael’s story picks up where the first film left off.
To bring Coppola back to the series the producers gave him the budget and freedom to make the film he wanted. This freedom, and the fact that the director didn’t really even want to make the film in the first place, likely led to such a rich and experimental production, and with the exception of perhaps Empire Strikes Back there haven’t been many filmmakers given this much leeway with sequel material. In many ways The Godfather Part II may be the superior film of the series. It’s impossibly artful, meticulously filmed and acted, and it’s a more intelligent film than the first, due in no small part to all the expectations set forth between films. The only regrets I find looking back with the most critical eye I can muster (strangely enough this film and Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America have sort of been hammered into one mega film in my brain), is that the sequel loses some of the original film’s pulpy lustre, and replaces it with semi-conceited tone. I wouldn’t call it pretentious, because Coppola gets away with every inch of melodrama (the last act is still heart wrenching), butt-numbing length and indulgent photography. I’ll use the less risible ostentatious.
The Godfather Part II is mostly similar to the original. The grain is still pretty thick, some of the browns are still a little noisy, and the details aren’t quite razor sharp, but it still looks damn nice and as the director and DP intended. I noticed a few issues specifically pertaining to the second film, include minor frame shifts and shakes (mostly in outdoor shots), and a little more colour correction. The former item is regrettable, but the latter is very intriguing. Coppola and Willis pushed the sepia tones further in the second film (because they were allowed to), and the final effect is somewhat extreme, but fitting. My DVD and widescreen VHS copies are sizably more yellow then this new hi-def transfer, which is more golden, almost orange. This applies at an even more extreme degree to the Vito flashback scenes, which are also a little grainier, and a little lower on detail. I never noticed before, but Willis uses wider lenses and broader focus during many of the old world scenes, creating a flatter look in comparison to the more three dimensional ‘50s scenes. The blacks of the second film are noticeably sharper than those of the first film. Those unsure of their Blu-ray re-buy should really check out the scene where Fredo spills his guts. On the DVD Pacino and Cazale appear as silhouettes against the brighter stuff outside the window, while on Blu-ray we’re now privy to the small details of their faces.
Audio is again similar to the original, but with the benefit of a larger budget. The sound design of the second film is more brash and assured. The attempt at murdering of Michael at the beginning of the film is another prime example of Coppola’s suspense wracking sound design, and the bombast of the Tommy gun fire is a fantastic aural attack. The opening funeral procession features genuine surround sound cicadas, which subtly wrap around the viewer, while the Cuba sequences, including the inside and outside New Year’s celebrations, and the street revolts, are the closest the disc gets to reference quality surround and bass. The dialogue is still a little flat and tinny, but the overall ambiance is more lively and realistic. Nino Rota’s vigorously gloomy and chunky score is fully and warmly represented on both the first and second film’s soundtracks. The surround representation of the music is more intricate than that of the sound effects. The strings and brass blast in a rather wall like fashion from the left and right, while the mandolins, clarinets, and guitars are delegated to specific channels. In the case of the second film the effect is even richer, and the bass even fuller.
The only extra here is Coppola’s commentary track, which was recorded for the original DVD release of the trilogy. The track is still fully formed, stimulating, and substantially listenable, but is a little bit unessential given its previous availability. If you’re like me, and you’ve already seen these films a dozen or so times, the track makes for an entertaining alternative to listening to the same old dialogue and music, no matter how brilliant it may be. You’ve got to respect the man’s ability to sit and talk to himself for nearly nine hours (if we count the commentary on the third film, which is not available separately). Still, most of these stories are pretty well known, but those that don’t own the trilogy collection have no other extras to work from.
This Sapphire Series release does, in fact, feature the same Coppola Restoration video and audio elements that accompanied the Godfather Trilogy Blu-ray set released in September of 2008, so there is no need for owners of that set to repurchase this film. I know there are those that really despise the third film in the series, but for the money it’s probably worth buying the collection set over this disc, especially for the extra added quality of the fourth disc’s documentaries and featurettes. Just think of the third film as a special feature. Those that positively cannot abide by Godfather III and who just don’t care about extras can be satisfied in the knowledge that they are getting the best possible versions of one of the best possible movies ever made.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 2nd February 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD English, Dolby TrueHD French, Dolby TrueHD Spanish, Dolby Digital Mono English
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Director's Commentary
Easter Egg: No
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Cast: Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton, James Caan, Robert Duvall
Genre: Crime and Drama
Length: 200 minutes
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