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Listen, nothing’s going to make The Godfather III on par with the original movie or first sequel. Still, Francis Ford Coppola’s new edit, The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone, is an interesting curiosity. Can he improve the maligned finale in the eyes of critics and fans? Maybe if you hated The Godfather Part III. If you were fine with it you’ll probably be fine with Coda too. 

Godfather III family portrait
Corleone family (front row L-R: Diane Keaton, John Savage, Donald Donnelly, Al Pacino, Sofia Coppola, Andy Garcia, Eli Wallach and Talia Shire) | Paramount Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Before ‘The Godfather Coda,’ ‘Godfather III’ was the end of Michael Corleone

Coming 16 years after The Godfather Part II, The Godfather III necessarily feels of a different time. Many of the central characters have been killed in the first two parts. Plus, Robert Duvall simply didn’t return over salary disputes, so the story has to work with what’s left. 

Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is still head of the family. His daughter Mary (Sofia Coppola) is starting to ask questions about the stories she’s heard about her father. Michael ordering Fredo’s death in the previous film ripples. It’s destroyed his marriage to Kay (Diane Keaton). His son Anthony (Frank D’Ambrosio) wants nothing to do with the family. 

The film introduces Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia) as a major new character. That brings a new dynamic. Mancini is a young upstart who wants to be Michael’s right hand. He may be a little impetuous, but he proves worthy in a crisis. 

L-R: Andy Garcia and Al Pacino | Paramount Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

It’s a new dynamic. Michael faces an ally who’s where he was to Don Vito (Marlon Brando) in the original film, but behaves with less restraint. It’s about what do the legends of the first two movies mean to the new generation? And, can Michael ever really atone for his life of crime, if he even wants to?

What’s new in ‘The Godfather Coda’

The Godfather Coda doesn’t feel like watching a drastically different movie like the Blade Runner director’s cut, or even extended cuts like The Abyss, The Exorcist or alternate cuts of Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection. It is five minutes shorter, so perhaps tighter and snappier in some parts. It’s hard to tell if you haven’t watched The Godfather III in 30 years, or even 10 since the Blu-ray trilogy came out. 

Godfather Coda Vatican Scene
L-R: George Hamiltion, Donald Donnelly and Al Pacino | Paramount Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Most noticeably, the beginning and end are different. The Godfather Coda now begins with a scene that originally came later in The Godfather III. A priest asks Michael for a bailout in a parallel to Vito’s introduction, requesting a favor. Although, the party in which Michael holds court in his office also provides that parallel to his father. 

The end is different too, so if you just want to see the biggest differences, you can skip ahead. 

Some things never change 

The things people remember about The Godfather III are still there. The ear bite, the Atlantic City helicopter hit and Michael’s line “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in” remain in The Godfather Coda

Godfather Coda Atlantic City
L-R: Andy Garcia and Al Pacino | Paramount Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

‘The Godfather III’: Why Sofia Coppola Played Mary Corleone Instead of Winona Ryder

The film still drags in the second hour. Coppola still can’t put Duvall back in. Replacing Tom Hagen with a character we’ve never met before remains one of the largest shortcomings. 

Perhaps time will be the greatest benefit to The Godfather III. Without the pressure of more Oscar nominations and legacy, perhaps viewers can appreciate the film on its own merits. The Godfather Coda may be a slight improvement, or at least not a detrimentent, but time is the greatest blessing to this unfairly maligned sequel.