The Many Saints of Newark may be a prequel to Sopranos, but the set-up and feature film format make it more like Goodfellas, which changes an important theme.
That of David Chase The Many Saints of Newark is a prelude to The Sopranos, but the change in setting will make the feature film much more similar to Goodfellas – a key theme from the original HBO series dramatically shifted. Goodfellas follows the life of mid-level mob co-star Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) from the mid-1950s to 1980s. The Sopranos was a generation later, from the late 90s to the mid-2000s, making it a rare story on a mafia basis with a contemporary setting. Want The Many Saints of Newark is a prequel, it’s been played in the past – and also contains all the accessories that come with a period piece.
Chase, the creator and exhibitors of The Sopranos, acknowledged Martin Scorsese’s hit 1990 biographical film Goodfellas as an important source of inspiration for him [via The Ringer] – although the connection between the two is self-evident. In addition to the many, many references and tributes to Goodfellas, the tone of The Sopranos is clearly a continuation of the clear tone in Scorsese’s film. Unlike its predecessor The godfather – who imbues his characters with a sense of classicism, honor and family pride – Goodfellas reveals a harsh truth about organized crime: whether or not anyone sympathizes with Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill, he’s undeniably a selfish, evil man whose primary motivation is lust, anger, and greed.
The Sopranos have the ideas of Goodfellas one step further: just like Henry Hill, Tony Soprano was a corrupt man who, for purely selfish reasons, drew to a life of crime; however, because The Sopranos in a contemporary setting, the events seem much less romantic. The nostalgic aspect of Goodfellas, and even The godfather, hides the seriousness of the characters’ actions, making it easier to get in touch with them. In The Sopranos, the characters are still pleasant, but their sociopathic actions are often more immoral, and the lifestyle is much less attractive.
Probably the most important theme in The Sopranos is the fear of American decay — this is evident from the gray, industrial heavy shots of New Jersey The Sopranos‘opening theme. Unlike Henry Hill in Goodfellas, Tony experiences life in the mafia after the golden age is over. Cocaine and other drug trafficking were very lucrative for rings with organized crime in the 1960s and 1970s, but a number of factors – notably the RICO Act (often referred to in The Sopranos) – significantly affect such activities. There is a feeling in Goodfellas that the ‘good times’ were over by 1980, which is an important contributing factor (at least thematically) to Henry’s decision to enter witness protection. The Sopranos was introduced two decades later, and since then things have only gone downhill.
Want The Many Saints of Newark set in 1967, it is highly unlikely that it will attempt the same theme of decline as is so common in the original series. The Sopranos characters in The Many Saints of Newark is still young and idealistic (like Tony and his partner Paulie), while the older generation – especially the film’s lead actor, Dickie Moltisanti – enjoys the kind of high life that no longer existed in 1999. Consequently, the prequel can, at best, emphasize the ugly side of the lifestyle – much like Goodfellas do it – while pointing out the inevitable decay that viewers know is waiting for the characters.
There are other ways viewers can expect The Many Saints of Newark to feel like Goodfellas – the inclusion of Ray Liotta as Aldo “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti in the prequel as an important one. The fact that both are films is different – The Sopranos By taking television in series, a very different story format is possible. Regardless, Chase’s involvement as a writer and producer of the film means that viewers can expect the film to be both a sequel to The Sopranos as well as a deviation – even if Chase did not get the theatrical release he wanted.
Next: How the Many Saints of Newark Continue the Soprano’s Supernatural Storyline
- The Many Saints Of Newark (2021)Issue date: 01 Oct 2021
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