The Sopranos’ prequel, The Many Saints of Newark, needed the time of a TV miniseries to explore all of its characters and storylines in a meaningful way.
Reviews are divided on the film The Many Saints of Newark, and many problems could have been avoided by using a miniseries format for the prequel. David Chase’s feature film offers viewers a glimpse into the history of The Sopranos, showing how a young Tony Soprano was mentored by Dickie Moltisanti. Unfortunately, the format of a two-hour movie makes many plot points feel rushed or unsatisfying, which The Many Saints of Newark ‘s mixed reviews.
Fixed decades before The Sopranos in Newark of the 60s and 70s, The Many Saints of Newark depicts Dickie’s rise in the DiMeo crime family, his tumultuous relationship with his father’s young wife, Giuseppina, and his abrupt death. The film also introduces the character of Harold, a black gangster who struggles to find a place amid the racism of the mafia and society in general. The Many Saints of Newark also includes previews of newer versions of several Soprano characters including Livia, Junior and Carmela.
This all adds up to a lot to pack in two hours, and the film goes through much of its exposure and leaves some fundamental plot points unresolved. Many scenes, especially in the first half of The Many Saints of Newark, are very fast and establish a world without it really feeling inhabited. A limited series on HBO would give more time to introduce the characters at a more measured pace without relying on awkward devices such as Christopher Moltisanti’s (Michael Imperioli) storytelling from beyond the grave. A larger story told over 6-10 episodes would have been a better format for the project, allowing it to fully embody its story and its characters.
The Sopranos has always had a sprawling, digressively prone storytelling style, perfectly suited for a serialized TV series. The Many Saints of Newark takes a similar approach, but without the time to explore the plots at leisure. A miniseries could have provided an appropriate resolution for Harold’s storyline and better developed important relationships and plot points like Junior’s feud with Dickie. He could also venture into the stories of Soprano characters like Carmela and Tony Blundetto, who only appear briefly in The Many Saints of Newark. A TV format would also better suit the strengths of The many saints of Newarkwriter David Chase and director Alan Taylor, both known for their work on The Sopranos. The two had less success in the film world, with Chase Does not weaken and Taylor-directed blockbusters like Thor: The Dark World meeting muted response. The Many Saints of NewarkBox office returns suggest it will follow a similar path.
The kind of long storytelling and low-key direction that made The Sopranos such a classic television show is more difficult to translate into the limited running time of a feature film. Cinema audiences also expect a greater amount of visual appeal and narrative resolution, as The Many Saints of Newark often looks like two TV episodes stuck together. A TV or streaming miniseries would have allowed Chase to tell stories the way he is best. A limited series, as opposed to an ongoing show like The Sopranos, would still allow The Many Saints of Newark tell a deliberate, self-contained story from start to finish. While The Many Saints of Newark creates possibilities for sequels, resolving its plots in a contained series would have provided more closure and avoided the swelling of modern cinematic universes. In the end, while The Many Saints of Newark has many strengths, it would have been a more satisfying tale than a miniseries.
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