The Many Saints of Newark may be a prequel to The Sopranos, but its setting and feature-length format makes it look more like Goodfellas – tweaking a key theme.
that of David Chase The Many Saints of Newark is a prequel to The Sopranos, but the change of scenery will make the feature film much more similar in tone to Goodfellas – radically changing a key theme of the original HBO series. Goodfellas follows the life of mid-level mafia associate Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) from the mid-1950s to the 1980s. The Sopranos was set a generation later, from the late 90s through the mid-2000s, making it a rare Mafia story with a contemporary setting. Because The Many Saints of Newark is a prequel, it’s set in the past – and will also have all of the attributes that come with any period piece.
Chase, the creator and showrunner of The Sopranos, credited the successful Martin Scorsese biopic in 1990 Goodfellas as a great source of inspiration for him [via The Ringer] – although the link between the two is obvious. In addition to the many references and tributes to Good guys, the tone of The Sopranos is clearly a continuation of the distinct tone of the Scorsese film. Unlike its predecessor The Godfather – who imbues his characters with a sense of classism, honor and family pride – Goodfellas reveals a harsh truth about organized crime: Whether or not one sympathizes with Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill, he is undeniably a selfish and evil man whose primary motivations are lust, anger, and greed.
The Sopranos took ideas from Goodfellas one more step: like Henry Hill, Tony Soprano was a corrupt man who was drawn to a life of crime for purely selfish reasons; however, because The Sopranos had a contemporary setting, the events seem much less romantic. The nostalgic aspect of Goodfellas, and even The Godfather, mask the seriousness of the characters’ actions, which makes it easier to identify with them. In The Sopranos, the characters are still likable, but their often sociopathic actions are more blatantly immoral, and the lifestyle is much less appealing because of it.
Arguably the most important theme of The Sopranos is the anxiety of American decadence – this is evident from the gray and industrial plans of New Jersey seen in The Sopranos‘opening theme. Unlike Henry Hill in Good guys, Tony experiences life in the Mafia after the end of the Golden Age. Trafficking in cocaine and other drugs was very lucrative for organized criminal networks in the 1960s and 1970s, but a number of factors, including the RICO Act (frequently referred to in The Sopranos) – have had a significant impact on these activities. There is a meaning in Goodfellas that the “good times” ended in 1980, which is a major factor (at least thematically) in Henry’s decision to enter witness protection. The Sopranos takes place two decades later, and things have only gotten worse since then.
Because The Many Saints of Newark set in 1967, it’s highly unlikely to attempt the same theme of decline that is so prevalent in the original series. The Sopranos’ characters in The Many Saints of Newark are still young and idealistic (like Tony and his pal Paulie), while the older generation – notably the film’s main character, Dickie Moltisanti – are enjoying the kind of highlife that no longer existed in 1999. As a result, the prequel may , better yet, highlight the ugly side of the lifestyle – kinda like Goodfellas fact – all the while hinting at the inevitable degradation viewers know is in store for the characters.
There are other ways viewers can expect The Many Saints of Newark feel like Goodfellas – the inclusion of Ray Liotta in the role of Aldo “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti in the prequel is major. The fact that both are movies is another – The Sopranos being serialized on television makes for a very different storytelling format. Either way, Chase’s involvement as a writer and producer for the film means viewers can expect the film to feel like both a continuation of The Sopranos as well as a divergence – even though Chase didn’t get the theatrical release he wanted.
Next: How Newark’s Many Saints Continue The Supernatural History Of The Sopranos
- The Many Saints of Newark (2021)Release date: 01 October 2021
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