Long-running HBO show, “The Sopranos,” was a fan favorite over its six-season run. For myself, I have seen “The Sopranos” over three times in its entirety and feel like I know the story and characters pretty darn well.
Imagine my surprise when I heard that a prequel to “The Sopranos” was coming out. While not much was known about the prequel, “The Many Saints of Newark,” I was eager to watch and see what new or previously discussed events would be visited in the HBO film.
For the first 20-30 minutes of the film, it was everything I could have wanted and more.
There was certainly fan service provided through seeing many of the main characters as younger versions of themselves, and there were some interesting new characters shown such as Harold, played by Leslie Odom Jr., one of Hollywood’s best actors working today.
Unfortunately, after these first 20-30 minutes, the story and characterizations seem to jut out haphazardly in directions that made little to no sense and directly conflicted with the stories we heard within “The Sopranos.”
For example, Tony’s mother in “The Sopranos,” showed no compassion or understanding at any point during the show. That included the present day when she was old, as well as in flashbacks of Tony’s childhood. However, in “The Many Saints of Newark” Tony’s mother certainly had her patented mean streak and lack of empathy, but she was a more nuanced and understandably standoffish and prickly character.
That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate “The Many Saints of Newark” trying to make Tony’s mother a more nuanced and well-rounded character. My issue is that at this point we have seen her for who she truly was in the show repeatedly in all iterations of her character, so for “The Many Saints of Newark” to try and re-write the narrative, it feels disingenuous.
Tony’s mother was not the only character that was re-imagined. Arguably the biggest shift came in Junior Soprano’s character from “The Sopranos” to “The Many Saints of Newark.”
In the show, he was an old man that was a pessimist and an incumbrancer on Tony’s and many others' lives through his grumpiness and pride. Even with those faults, Junior was still beloved by his nephew Tony because he provided a sympathetic shoulder at times during Tony’s childhood.
In “The Many Saints of Newark,” Junior’s character is aloof and grouchy without any of the nuance and positive characteristics the show gave him in the advanced age we saw him in as well as in the flashbacks to when Junior was younger.
Once again, “The Many Saints of Newark” proved itself guilty of altering its story and bounty of lore provided by “The Sopranos” by changing its character’s fundamental and core attributes so it could serve its own purposes.
Not only that, but Silvio Dante’s portrayal in “The Many Saints of Newark” by actor John Magaro was nothing more than a caricature of Steven Van Zandt’s rendition of the character in “The Sopranos.”
I had high hopes for “The Many Saints of Newark” when I heard about it. Maybe too high.
The first 20-30 minutes showed a lot of promise as it introduced familiar characters in an original story with an interesting premise. Unfortunately, “The Many Saints of Newark” broke away from this original story for a cheap and tawdry simplification and misremembering of all of the stories and past motivations characters in “The Sopranos” previously gave for living their lives the way they did.
While Michael Gandolfini’s performance as his late-father’s role of Tony Soprano was very good and Alessandro Nivola’s portrayal of Dickie Moltisanti was inventive and powerful, they could not save “The Many Saints of Newark” from its many faults.
Grant T. Mitchell is a senior at UT this year majoring in public relations. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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