I know a lot of people who think that the original The Godfather film is by far the best of the trilogy – myself included. I also know quite a few people who actually regard the second film, The Godfather II, as the masterpiece of the trilogy. However, I do not know anybody who finds The Godfather III to be the best of the bunch. Maybe such people exist, but I haven’t met them yet. Truth be told, I don’t think the final instalment of the world-famous Sicilian mafia series was a particularly bad one – it’s actually a very good film. The problem with it was, especially since it came 16 years after the second one (while the pause between the first and second one was two years), the expectations were simply too high. Plus, it was going to conclude the chapter of Michael Corleone, and we all know how divisive finales can be, especially when we’re talking about such a complex and well-loved character.
Well, I was suprised to recently find out that Francis Ford Coppola decided to re-edit The Godfather III, 30 years after its 1990 showing, and release it in the winter of 2020. This is nothing new or surprising from Coppola’s side – he released 4 different cuts of Apocalypse Now, and many other of his films benefited from re-editing treatment, including The Cotton Club, Rumble Fish and The Outsiders. Perhaps re-editing work is easier to do during the coronavirus pandemic, when shooting new footage, especially at 81 years old, is a bit on the riskier side. Perhaps Sylvester Stallone’s announcement of a Rocky IV Director’s Cut on the film’s 35-year anniversary was a motivating factor toward this decision. Or, perhaps it was a long due project that was kept under wraps until the 30-year anniversary.
So, the title of the re-edited project will be Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, which seems to be much closer (if not exactly matching) the originally intended title for Coppola’s project – which got simplified for marketing purposes. He declared that the re-cut “is an acknowledgment of Mario’s and my preferred title and our original intentions for what became ‘The Godfather: Part III.’ For this version of the finale, I created a new beginning and ending, and rearranged some scenes, shots, and music cues. With these changes and the restored footage and sound, to me, it is a more appropriate conclusion to ‘The Godfather’ and ‘The Godfather: Part II’.”
I am personally curious what these original intentions for beginning and ending were, and how they will play out within the newly released version. While a number of decisions throughout The Godfather III were probably not the best and most inspired one, the way the finale plays out was nothing short of top-notch filmmaking, from every respect. I am really interested by how the quality can be pushed forward even more with existing footage. I guess we will all find out in December.