Whether or not The Sopranos is essential viewing comes down to how determined viewers are to understand the Many Saints of Newark’s intricacies.
The strong ties between The Sopranos and its prequel raise the interesting question of whether or not The Many Saints of Newark is understandable without seeing the TV show. The Many Saints of Newark follows the highs and lows of the notorious DiMeo crime family across the 1960s and 70s as they contend with a changing political landscape hastened by the infamous, racially divisive Newark riots. The story also serves as an origin story for the great Tony Soprano in his teenage years, with many of the film’s scenes told through the eyes of the burgeoning gangster.
The Many Saints of Newark releases 22 years after The Sopranos first debuted on-screen, prompting understandable nostalgia between one of HBO’s crown jewels and a reimagining of classic Sopranos characters. The prequel is also laced with emotion, with the late James Gandolfini’s role as Tony being reprised by his son, Michael. The initial critical response suggests Michael Gandolfini delivers a standout performance worthy of memorializing his father, as well as being a dead-ringer in terms of replicating Tony’s mannerisms.