National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

DVD Picks and Passes 09.28.2008

BY Steven D. Greydanus

September 28-October 4, 2008 Issue | Posted 9/23/08 at 1:55 PM

 

The Godfather (1972) - Pick

The Godfather Part II (1974) - Pick

The Godfather Part III (1990) - Pass

Iron Man (2008) - Pick


This week, Francis Ford Coppola’s celebrated Godfather trilogy comes to DVD and Blu-Ray in a newly restored edition called “The Coppola Restoration.”

The Godfather has been compared to Shakespeare and Gone With the Wind, not without reason. The source material, Mario Puzo’s best-selling gangster novel, is a pulpy potboiler rife with gruesome violence and intrigue, much as Margaret Mitchell’s novel is a glorified soap opera and Shakespeare’s sources included popular tales of ambition, sex and revenge.

Yet, as Shakespeare’s artistry and Victor Fleming’s lush filmmaking in Gone With the Wind elevated their material, in the hands of Coppola and his collaborators, The Godfather becomes something dark and terribly compelling. A twisted take on the American dream, The Godfather blends old-world corruption with new-world free enterprise, old-world honor culture with new-world individualism, old-world religion with perennial human hypocrisy.

With its equally well-regarded sequel The Godfather Part II, The Godfather is about the destructive power of evil to corrupt the very things that tempt us to embrace it in the first place, as Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) winds up destroying the one thing he wanted to protect above all: his family.

Although some have doubted the series’ moral perspective, morality is inescapable in this world. Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando in an iconic performance) wants to stick to old rackets like gambling, and he rejects the destructive lure of narcotics. But evil is a slippery slope, and those who try to find a stopping place do so at their peril.

A disappointing coda, The Godfather Part III attempts to grapple explicitly with the moral undercurrents of the first two parts, with a guilt-ridden Michael Corleone seeking redemption. An effective confession scene is unfortunately more than outweighed by the film’s lurid depiction of Church corruption.

Also new this week on DVD is the summer’s first big popcorn hit, the breezy comic-book adventure Iron Man. Unlike the Godfather films, Iron Man doesn’t try to transcend its pulp origins (though the summer’s biggest blockbuster, The Dark Knight, does).

What it does offer is a comic-book origin story that’s also a conversion tale. Initially a spoiled poster boy of celebrity excess, weapons baron Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) receives a moral wake-up call when he’s kidnapped by terrorists. This leads to Tony’s greatest invention — and his discovery of moral responsibility.

Downey is great fun in the role, chewing his juicy lines with gusto, and Gwyneth Paltrow makes Pepper Potts the best girlfriend of a superhero in recent comic-book movie history.


Content advisory: The Godfather Trilogy: Explicit gangland killings; brief sexual situations and brief nudity; profane and objectionable language; depictions of homicidally corrupt clergy in Part III. Mature viewing; discretion advised. Iron Man: Realistic and comic-book war zone violence; some immoderate drinking, innuendo and suggestive material, including a brief bedroom scene (no nudity); a couple of wince-inducing scenes involving Tony’s chest injury; some objectionable language, including at least one instance of profanity. Might be okay for older teens.