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Franchise Original Sin / The Godfather

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  • Francis Ford Coppola cast his daughter Sofia Coppola in the role of Michael's daughter Mary Corleone for Part III, which she couldn't handle. What a lot of people forget is that Francis included many of his family in the cast and crew of the first two films, most notably his sister Talia Shire in the role of Vito's daughter Connie Corleone. However, Talia is a good character actress, and her role in the first two films was relatively minor. While she got a larger part in the third one, she'd already won the audience's goodwill, and so they accepted her expanded role despite her being related to the director.note  On the other hand, Sofia, on top of being inexperienced and not wanting to play the part in the first place, was expected to take on the role of the emotional center in Part III, which was a far more demanding part that brought greater attention and scrutiny to the perceived nepotism.
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  • Part III was attacked for introducing a large number of new characters, especially Don Altobello, a longtime Corleone associate we hadn't met before. However, characters like these (namely Hyman Roth and Frank Pentangeli) had already been introduced in Part II. This was accepted back in 1974 because the main characters (Michael, Kay, Tom Hagen, Fredo) from the original films carried over with the Story Arc continuing directly, the new characters were also gangsters (at least for the most part), it stayed a gangster movie at heart all the way through, and the first two films being released only two years apart meant that audiences could easily suspend their disbelief about the World Building, especially since not that much time had passed in-universe between the first two movies. None of this was true in 1990. Aside from Michael, Kay, and Connie, Part III had entirely new characters, with Coppola himself admitting that Tom Hagen's absence crippled it from providing real closure to the story. Many of said new characters were figures like shady financiers and corrupt cardinals, and the movie basically works in its early section as a business procedural of all things (Michael gives speeches at Wall Street as if he's trying to imitate Gordon Gekko) without any further explanations as to the sudden Genre Shift, since the high-rolling finance side of the Corleone Empire never really connects with Vincent Mancini's classically street gangster story arc. On top of it all, there was a decade-plus gap between Part II and Part III along with a greater Time Skip, which changed the entire context that the audience had with the films and these characters.
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  • Then there were the criticisms of Part III having a multilayered plot incorporating historical events, namely the Vatican Bank scandal and Pope John Paul I's death. However, the Cuban Revolution and Kefauver Hearings played major roles in the plot of Part II. The difference was that the historical bits were tied in to the history of the Mafia, along with broader American history and politics, which was thematically appropriate to the exploration of the American Dream. In contrast, the focus on European financial corruption feels esoteric and remote, and doesn't really tie in to the overall story of immigration and assimilation in the first two movies. The Vatican Bank scandal by its very nature is also extremely topical and arcane, with many facts still unknown to this day, which is an odd choice compared to pre-revolutionary Cuban history where Mafia influence in and collusion with the Batista regime was fairly well-known to the average moviegoer.
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  • Fans often blame Part III's quality on Coppola openly doing it for the money, implying that it didn't match its predecessors because Coppola's heart wasn't in the material. In fact, Coppola held the same attitude towards the entire franchise. He hated Mario Puzo's novel and took the job directing the first film a) to compensate for his failure setting up an independent studio, and b) because the studio wanted an Italian director to assuage members of the Italian-American community who feared that the film would be a parade of offensive stereotypes otherwise (which is also why the word "Mafia" is never used in the film). He had even less interest in making the second movie after the original's immensely Troubled Production, and agreed to make it in large part to gain studio funding for The Conversation, a longtime pet project. Few blame Coppola's mercenary attitude with detracting from the first two movies' quality.
  • One of the most common criticisms of Part III is that it often feels like a Post-Script Finale compared to the first two entries, since it has no basis in Mario Puzo's original story. Even Coppola has described it as an "epilogue" rather than a true third act. To an extent, this is also true of Part II: Puzo did not write a sequel to the book, and he pretty conclusively wrapped up the story with Michael moving the Corleone clan to Nevada and making plans to go legitimate after orchestrating the murders of the heads of the Five Families; Michael's entire storyline in Part II, involving his business empire in Cuba, Hyman Roth's vendetta against the family, and Fredo's betrayal, was invented entirely for the film. But it was easy to forgive this, since the flashback portions about Vito's origins were taken from the novel, and the story actually moved the Corleone brothers' arcs forward in interesting ways. Part III was not only completely unconnected to the novel, it featured none of the original cast besides Michael, Kay, and Connie, making it feel like a pointless continuation of the saga.


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