For forty-five years people have been saying that The Godfather is the gold standard in cinema by which all other -lesser- films should be judged. I’d never seen it. A few weeks back I finally set aside three hours of my life to see what all the fuss was about. I was sorely disappointed. At first I thought maybe I was just being contrarian, but I really liked Taxi Driver, which is another film from the same era which was critically very well received, so I’d like to think my opinion is objective.
I won’t go into details of the plot since I’m sure anyone who stumbled across this is already quite familiar with the work. Instead I’m just going to detail why I thought it just wasn’t very good.
First, I want to get it out of the way right from the start that the actors all put in solid performances. This isn’t an amazing film being hamstringed by terrible casting, this is a terrible film that is being carried by amazing acting. Al Pacino, in particular, really nailed the transformation from straight-laced soldier boy to heartless king of the mob. But that was basically the entire story -a story which could have been told in one 22 minute episode of a TV show instead of dragging on from one boring, pointless scene to the next.
And that was my basic issue with the movie: there are so many scenes that are boring and trivial that by the time the important scenes rolled around I could barely bring myself to care. What was the necessity of spending half a damn hour showing us Michael strolling around in Italy? Just to make use hate him more? He’s supposedly in hiding, but spends his time out and about, throwing his name around when/where ever he can. He gets married -completely betraying Kay- and at that point, Michael and Kay are the only characters in the film with any redeeming qualities whatsoever. After the trip to Italy, Michael is such an unlikable, despicable person that I don’t care what happens to him.
Due to my dislike of every character except Kay, even some of the scenes which were supposed to be very tense and dramatic ended up falling flat. And just when I think I can’t possibly care any less, Sonny is kicking Carlo’s ass in an alley, but misses so completely with a punch that, when Carlo reacted as if the punch had landed, I was expecting Benny Hill music to start playing, but it never did:
Of course I think that might have just been setting the stage for the cartoonish killing of Sonny himself. After getting hit by dozens of bullets inside his car, he gets out of the car, stands up, and poses to take dozens more. I’ve never been shot dozens of times so I can only speak hypothetically, but, hypothetically, if I get shot a couple dozen times I’m not going to try to eliminate the only protection I have (the car) to stand out in the open and take more bullets. In fact, I’d wager that if I am ever shot a couple dozen times, I’d probably not get out of the car at all.
Between taking the only character with any redeeming qualities and showing how horrible of a person he truly is -so early on- and the disconnect from reality during so many scenes, it makes it impossible for me to take this movie seriously. It came down to a bunch of people I didn’t give half a shit about killing a bunch of other people I didn’t give half a shit about, and, to me, that doesn’t make for a great movie.