The Sopranos sequel "hard to follow" despite all star cast

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021 at 2:21 PM
The Sopranos sequel hard to follow despite all star cast by Zaida Pring
Photo: The New Yorker/TNS

Tony Soprano is back on the screen, sort of. The Many Saints of Newark, the highly anticipated prequel to the hit show The Sopranos hit the big screen on Oct. 1, 2021. Michael Gandolfini stepped into his late father’s shoes to play a teenaged Tony Soprano and the film featured an all-star cast including Ray Liotta and Vera Farmiga. With David Chase, the original screenwriter and producer being involved, expectations were high. But does the film live up to the expectations of long-time fans of the show?

The casting of the film was phenomenal to say the least. As many other viewers, I was excited to see Michael Gandolfini step into his father’s role and he did not disappoint. Other notable cast members were Ray Liotta as both “Hollywood Dick” and Salvatore Moltisanti in the film and Vera Farmiga as a young Livia Soprano, showing audiences the struggle that led to her later on decline in the show. Even beyond the main showcased characters, background and minor characters such as a young Carmela Soprano and young Janice Baccalierilept off the screen as mirror images of their future selves. However, spot on casting cannot alone make a prequel. 

As a prequel to a show about Tony Soprano, Michael Gandolfini’s lack of screen time was disheartening at best. Despite his stellar performance and a perfect homage to his late father’s legacy, the bulk of the plot focused on Dickie Moltisanti and his own issues. While in the show it is clear Tony had a very dependent relationship on his late uncle, the movie fell short of showing how close they were by essentially cutting Tony from the movie. 

Despite David Chase being involved in the film, the plots were lackluster compared to the long-running television show. There were too many plots in the film that were started and not completed and the film took too many directions for casual, or first-time viewers to keep up with. The film essentially felt like Chase took what would have been several seasons of The Sopranos and condensed them and their plotlines into a two-hour film. 

There were, however, a few nods to the show that helped longtime fans stay interested in the plot. Tony’s sensitivity and intelligence are highlighted throughout his screen-time, especially with the nod to his mother Livia refusing to take medication for her mental health. In the show, she was shown as very mentally unwell. This is also a nod to Tony’s own journey with his mental health that fans of the show watched in episode after episode. 

Finally, the best nod to the show is Dickie Moltisanti’s death. As long-time viewers know, the series ended with an abrupt cut scene, not allowing audiences to see Tony Soprano’s fate. While Chase did this to leave Tony’s fate up to the viewer, a common fan theory is that this was done to show that Tony is in such a high-profile position with so many enemies that he may die at any moment. Dickie’s death felt like a nod to that as he too was shown making many enemies, but ultimately dying an unexpected death and an unexpected time. 

Overall, the film was lacking in several ways. The casting was outstanding and the ties to the plot of the show were extremely well done. The several plots left me wanting more from the film and ultimately felt like it was a film simply treading water while trying to keep fans invested with as minimal work as possible.

Tags: review

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