The Many Saints of Newark keeps some elements from The Sopranos the same while retconning others — namely, the prequel changes Tony’s age, but not in the way many fans thought it would. The HBO series ran for 6 seasons while locking itself in as one of the most widely referenced and highly regarded dramas of the 21st century. The franchise now has a semi-reboot in the form of a pseudo-origin story for some of its influential characters. However, as many fans and critics have already noted, there are definitely components that have been modified for its newest project.
Unfortunately, the film doesn’t have as much storytelling around Tony’s (Michael Gandolfini) youth as many had hoped. Even so, some seminal moments from his formative years are present. There’s the backdrop of turmoil and conflict from the 1967 Newark, NJ riots in Many Saints of Newark’s opening chapter, and there’s a huge emphasis placed on Tony’s relationship with the movie’s main protagonist, Dickie Molisanti. Interestingly, some of the film’s retconning involves Tony, as well.
There’s some inconsistency with his age in the prequel, but not in the way that many fans predicted. Since the public was aware that the Newark riots were going to be a part of the film before its release, some people were concerned that Tony’s teenage years would be depicted during the ’60s. Of course, this would be incorrect by the original series’ standards: Tony would be about 8-years-old at that time. However, his age during the riots turned out to be accurate according to the show’s storyline. What was changed is how quickly his character is supposed to age. The Many Saints of Newark’s storyline then jumps four years into the future after its ’67 portion, which would make Tony around 12. However, the teenage version that Michael Gandolfini masterfully plays (in a performance eerily similar to his late father’s older iteration of the character) seems to be older than that. Surely, he has to be around 16 or 17, at the least.
Of course, this isn’t the film’s only instance of retconning. Other modifications to the franchise – which have drawn both interest, praise, and criticism – include examples like the introduction of Harold’s character into the central crime family’s storyline and how Tony’s eventual associate and friend, Silvio, is portrayed. Like Tony, his age is also tweaked for the prequel. In the original series, he seems close to Tony and Paulie in age. However, decades earlier in The Many Saints of Newark, he already appears to be a middle-aged man.
Such instances of story-bending are certainly interesting creative choices. They don’t sit well with everyone, but no artistic call ever does. The team behind a project has to do whatever is necessary to make it work. Not to mention that the franchise has always been Sopranos creator David Chase’s metaphorical “baby,” and he can add or subtract elements of it whenever he sees fit. Still, some of these seeming incongruences might appear odd to the average Sopranos aficionado – especially at first. Such a beloved franchise, with its throngs of diehard fans, should be continually cautious about how much it alters from the smash-hit series’ blueprint. Luckily, in The Many Saints of Newark, many of the show’s classic characters, stories, events, and even it’s original vibe are still very present.