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The Many Saints of Newark is fanfic for the overrated Sopranos

As Solo and Rogue One were to Star Wars, The Many Saints of Newark is to The Sopranos: mere fanfic dressed up as a prequel. We did not need to learn how Uncle Junior hurt his back.

Unpopular pop culture opinion: The Sopranos is overrated. Yes, it opened the floodgates for what came to be called “prestige TV”, but so much of what followed is better. Tony Soprano may be the archetypal male sociopath character that rationalizes his behavior to himself and to his TV audience, but I would argue that Walter White, Al Swearengen, Jimmy McNulty, and Don Draper are all more complex and interesting figures.

It’s a more common problem for a movie to fail from not having enough substance, but if anything, Alan Taylor’s The Many Saints of Newark has too much material for a two-hour movie. It’s been so long since I’ve seen The Sopranos that it took me ages to untangle the complex family tree in my head. I couldn’t remember which characters we were expected to remember from the series, and which were new.

Some intriguing coloration is given to Tony’s mother, one of the series’ biggest unalloyed villains (not to mention the most Freudian), but it’s barely a footnote in this overstuffed mess. I can’t help but think it would have been a better movie if it had focused on her, and perhaps also Janice and Carmela, both of whom merely cameo.

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