I have often heard that The Godfather movies are a thing everyone should see. They were often pitched as some of the best films ever, and my not having seen them was a sign of my vast ignorance of popular culture. This past weekend Wendy and Elli were away at Guide Camp so I sat down to try to correct this lack and expand my mind.
I think it worked, but maybe not the way people intended.
My general impressions were similar to other people. That is, there was a lot to like about the movies, the first two were obviously better than the third, and iconic scenes from the movies are rightly an important source in popular culture. I wasn't nearly as impressed as I had hoped to be though, and the reasons are largely the same ones that caused me to be unimpressed by 2001: A Space Odyssey when I saw that movie back in high school.
The thing that got me was how slow the movies were, especially the long scenes in Sicily in the middle of the first Godfather. There was a huge amount of stuff in there that was totally unnecessary to the overall plot and in my mind even detracted from it. My theory about why it was there is twofold: First, it was there to establish mood, which worked. Secondly it was there because at the time it was shot such scenes would be a lot more impressive than now. These days I can use Google maps to see any place in the world any time I want. I can type in a type of celebration into youtube and watch a full length video of it. I don't need random stuff like that in my movies unless they are very brief because I can get that at will. Go back a ways though and scenes from far away lands and unfamiliar cultures (not to mention different times!) are significantly more exotic and interesting... to the large majority of the audience who hasn't seen that stuff first hand, that is.
It is similar to 2001 where there were overly long scenes of spaceships hanging in space. I am sure that when the movies were shot those scenes were impressive to the audience but to a crowd of people used to Star Trek movies they were simply boring. Many of the scenes in the Godfather movies felt that way - like they were trying to show how impressive the medium was rather than trying to tell the story in as tight a fashion as possible. Similar to how 3D movies initially had tons of BOO scare stuff where objects flew out of the screen at people but nowadays 3D is generally much better used. Directors aren't trying to show off the medium anymore, but are just using their tools to tell their tale.
I enjoyed the movies, and I am glad I saw the first two. The third Godfather I could have done without. In particular I will now be able to pick up on more cultural references to them, which will close the immense gap I have in that department some small amount. However, I can't claim that they were amazing, rather just that they were interesting. And hey, they got me thinking about how I think about film, so that at least is something.