While there are several “correct” answers to the question “What’s the greatest TV show of all time,” it’s almost an inevitability that whoever you ask will have The Sopranos in the Top Five. Walking a very thin border between “epic drama” and “sitcom,” the show is iconic for the way it changed television forever. I myself started it for the first time this year, and it’s hard to deny its acting and writing capabilities. So you can imagine the intrigue surrounding The Many Saints of Newark, the prequel film written by the show’s original creator David Chase(who hasn’t made anything since his feature debut, Not Fade Away, flopped). The film doesn’t exactly feel necessary, and there’s not much else to say about the Soprano family and their personal and professional shortcomings. But thanks to some smart casting (which I’ll get into in a minute), and the promise of Michael Gandolfini stepping into his late father’s iconic shoes as Tony, it’s hard to deny that this film is worthy of its own buzz – especially after its first trailer.
Set during the 1960s and 1970s, when Newark, New Jersey experienced all-time high tensions between its African-American and Italian-American communities, the film follows Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), a powerful member in the DiMeo crime family. As the world he knows changes, Dickie finds himself trying to navigate a tumultuous, warring city with his friends and business partners Johnny (Jon Bernthal) and Junior (Corey Stoll) Soprano, while dealing with the ramifications his actions have on the nephew who idolizes him: Anthony Soprano (Gandolfini), who will one day rise up and take over the family himself.
I know, I know. On paper, this is a horrible idea. The Sopranos had a near-perfect run, and there’s nothing new to really add to the story. Furthermore, prequels are, 9 times out of 10, terrible ideas. But…I can’t help but be a little excited about this project. The story itself, set during the race riots of the 60s, is interesting enough. And I’ll be damned if David Chase didn’t find the perfect actors for each role. Nivola and Bernthal are always welcome additions to a cast, and Gandolfini playing the role his father made iconic is obvious, but going further down the rabbit hole, there’s Corey Stoll as Uncle Junior (genius), John Magaro aka Cookie Figowitz as Silvio (my personal favorite character), Billy Magnussen as Paulie Walnuts (holy sh*t), and, the most exciting casting of all, Vera Farmiga as Livia Soprano. Livia is arguably one of the greatest characters on television in the last twenty years, taking the borderline sitcom mother into terrifying territories. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Nancy Marchand playing the role – especially seeing what this character looks like in her youth – but if anyone can do it, it’s Farmiga.
I’m approaching this film with skepticism, yet mildly optimistic. I love this trailer, and I’d be lying if I didn’t get chills when the “Woke Up This Morning” needle drop came. I will be at this movie come October, sitting front row and cheering like it’s a Marvel movie. You ever see those videos of people losing their minds at Tony Stark saying “I am Iron Man?” That’s gonna be me when Livia says “Oh, poor you!” or Silvio says “That’s anti-Italian discrimination!” The Many Saints of Newark will premiere in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously on October 1st. You can watch the trailer below.