The film’s weaknesses are the same in both editions. There’s still a lack of believability in how Michael’s son goes from novice singer to leading an international opera ensemble in no more than a couple of months, and there’s still a problem with Mary, as played by Coppola’s daughter Sofia. It’s a part in which any actress, no matter how experienced, would have had her work cut out for her. Sofia had to make a convincing case that Vincent (Andy Garcia) would leave Bridget Fonda in the rearview mirror and risk everything for her. In a nutshell, the audience absolutely had to fall in love with with Mary.
And yet, maybe it was her father’s obvious love for Sofia that allowed him to create such an affecting result, especially with the film’s conclusion. The best sign of how well the third film works is that despite all of its flaws, the love that Coppola bestows on his own daughter through his alter ego (Michael) is palpable throughout. This is as heartfelt work as any the director has ever done, one that could only have be made by someone who has loved and lost deeply.
Coppola’s new edition is a less meandering film, but it still doesn’t always makes sense. In one minute Michael is laying on his hospital bed, but in the next we see him arriving in Sicily. It’s only our familiarity with the movie that saves us from getting completely lost. What’s odd about this new version is that Coppola doesn’t even take the opportunity to fix some things that were wrong with his original cut. That includes some truly awkward love scenes and a couple of serious continuity problems, like the moment early on when Michael offers Kay a piece of cake minutes before such is actually cut, or the sequence halfway through when his son Anthony is shown carrying the drawing he gave his father as a child, only for Coppola to share the moment when Michael actually hands it to him a good while later. The only real addition to this new edition comes during the stabbing of Don Lucchesi: a previously unseen blood geyser, in what was already the movie’s most absurd scene, especially when considering that his murderer had plenty of more believable weapons at his disposal than a standard pair of glasses.
“The Godfather Part III” has always suffered from the comparisons to its predecessors, two of the finest motion pictures ever made, but it fares rather well on its own. It was an inspiring idea for Coppola to include a scene where Michael seizes the opportunity to confess the sins that the audience had been carrying along with him for 16 years; it’s a truly cathartic moment for everyone, one of the most emotional in the whole series. It was also inspired to design Michael’s death scene so similarly to his own father’s, a simple and peaceful way for both men to die after leading such tumultuous lives. But it makes no sense whatsoever that Coppola chose to take out Michael’s passing in a new edition titled “The Death of Michael Corleone.”