14 October 2006 | mattrochman
Initially, I wasn't a fan... but then I realised
This is a masterpiece. A timeless masterpiece. Initially, I didn't like this film all that much - I found it rather over-hyped and boring. This was until the advent of DVD, which gave me the feature I needed for this sort of film: subtitles. Once I switched them on and heard (read) every last word of Brando's ramblings and other characters ramblings, I grew a true appreciation for this epic.
To make a true epic, you need all of three following ingredients working in near perfect harmony. For screenwriters who come across this, take the following pointers on board: 1) Contrasting Characters: Good films have some character distinction, but most fall rather flat because the core of each character is the same.
Of course, there are exceptions to rule (ie... where you want mono-tonal characters... aka matrix; or where you want outlandish contrasts... aka The Fifth Element), but ultimately, this is what makes films deep, meaningful and grand. Consider the contrasts between the Don's children. Michael is rather cool, rational and collected, whereas Sonny is more hot-headed, spontaneous and simple minded. But simply having these contrasts is not nearly enough. What you really need to do is to develop these characters - place them in situations - and then dwell on how their character impacts on the situation they're put in. The Godfather is a terrific example of how to pull this off. While many try to do this in screenplays, most lose the plot and create character obscurities that stretch credibility.
2) Transformation: The central character(s) must undergo a transformation, resulting in them being almost unrecognizable by the end of the film. By putting them into situations, the character's character must not only influence the outcome of the situation; it must also have a lasting impact on the character. Consider Michael at the wedding and compare that to the Michael we see at the end of the film. Again, many films try, but most fail because they come up with unreal (literally, not praisingly) or simply moronic transformations (eg, Wall Street).
3) Patience: Men in Black 2 was an astounding film for one simple reason - it was an entire film squashed into about 70 minutes. It was not much longer than an episode of ER or Buffy. I certainly hope the new goal of Hollywood isn't to make films as short as possible.
All the great ones spend time - time developing characters, family life, growth, patience with the story telling in general. This is the key (provided that the story isn't mind-numbingly boring). Dances with Wolves, Heat.. and so on are very patient but top-class films. While studios may be lukewarm on the idea of longer films, they are worth it if you have a ripper story to base it on.
I feel that this film has not dated all that much and has tremendous re-watch-ability.