The Godfather Part II that was released two years after the first part in 1974 is placed above the first part in contrast to many other lists of the greatest films for the reasons that will follow. For example The Godfather (or part I) had been ranked the third on the first AFI list of the greatest American films in 1997 and the second on its second edition list in 2007, while The Godfather Part II has been ranked number 32 on both editions of the list. It is unusual to rank a second part of a film, or a trilogy in this case above the first or the original one, but The Godfather Part II has so much more and deserves to be at least one rank higher than the first part. In fact the major reason that the first part that will be presented here right after the second part at the same time, has been ranked on this list of the greatest films of all time, is its impact on others, and not per se for its own merit. To understand better the ranking differential between these two films, some comparisons will be attempted here.
The part two starts where the part one finished, with Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) ascends to the position of the Godfather, passed on to from Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando who plays only in the first part) ruling the family’s organized crime. Soon after, the next scene flashbacks to the past and origin of Vito Corleone, the Godfather, back to Sicily Italy. Vito Andolini at the time is a nine years old boy, the only son left for his mother whose husband has been stained by the local mob chieftain, Don Cicco for not giving in. Her older son who had disappeared to the hills to take revenge of his father’s murder, soon at the time of the father’s funeral is shot to death by the mobs as well.
The mother goes to Don Cicco with Vito asking for his forgiveness to spare his only son’s life as “he’s too young and would not seek revenge”. But the mother is killed on the spot and the young Vito runs away. While the local mobs looking for Vito everywhere in the village of Corleone, he’s arranged to flee the village and get aboard of a ship to America. The scene of immigrants aboard reaching the land of free with their hopeful eyes falling on the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island of New York is one of the most beautiful such scenes of immigrating to America at the turn of 20th century, even better than “America America “ of Elia Kazan. The next scene while Vito has passed the immigration screening and placed in a room, looking through the window at the Statue of Liberty, fades off to the present time where Michael hosts a party.
Right away the difference between the two parts is that the first part is a cross sectional depiction of a mafia family, while the second part is a longitudinal examination of the origin of such family, starting off good, but ending devil. Throughout the film there are flashbacks to the past in early 20th century when all started with Vito, first an honest and hard working man who grew to become a monster and a killing machine. Even when back to the present in the second part, Michael is seen clearly in conflict within himself for taking on such responsibility leading a criminal family at the cost of ruining his own life. This is not yet seen in the first part, where Vito Corleone like a king with no remorse orders killings at ease and comfort of his place.
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