This weekend, Sarah and I finally finished The Godfather trilogy. We were surprised by several things.
1. Part 1 was filmed in 1972, and Part 2 in 1974. However, Part 3 was filmed 16 years later - in 1990. The writer and director originally wanted to call this "The Death of Michael Corleone," which gives more meaning to the final scene. However, for marketing reasons the studio insisted that it be called "The Godfather - Part 3." That makes sense. However, the original title gives a good frame for understanding the movie.
2. Mary was actually Copolla's (the director) daughter. Julia Roberts was originally cast in the role, but she backed out. The quality of Sophia Copolla's acting is much disputed, with some claiming her simple style ruined the movie for them. Sarah like her, but I thought her character was a little stilted. However, that could have been the fault of the script itself.
3. The scandals related to the Catholic Church are loosely based on actual historical events. The writers just mixed the Corleone family's story into that network of events.
4. Godfather 3 is consistently rated lower than Godfather 1 and 2. However, I definitely liked it more than 2 and maybe about as well as 1.
5. More than any of the other Godfather movies, this movie deals with spiritual themes. It tells the story of Michael Corleone's original intentions to "legitimize" the family business - in other words to get them out of the mafia ... and his subsequent failure to do so. He is drawn back in as he seeks revenge for the attack on his father.
There is a poignant and theologically deep scene in which Michael Corleone is talking with his ex-wife about how he did everything with the mafia and the killings to protect his family, but it was these actions in particular which caused him to lose his family. To me, this is a beautiful and painful picture of how when we turn to violence and greed to get what we want, we end up losing what we care about most.
There is also a beautiful scene in which Michael is talking with a Catholic bishop, and the bishop convinces Michael to do a confession. Michael feels that he is beyond redemption, but the Bishop says that Michael could in fact still be redeemed if only he were willing.
Overall, this is a very good movie. I'm still uncomfortable with the violence which a mafia movie basically necessitates, so that costs it a J in my book. I give it a strong 4Js: JJJJ.