It’s been nearly 15 years since David Chase wrote his infamous ending for “The Sopranos,” the HBO crime drama which has gone down in history as one of the greatest and most influential TV series not just of its era, but of all time. The weight of that prestige was always going to loom large over whatever Chase decided to do next, whether it was character-driven dramas like his film “Not Fade Away” or any potential related “Sopranos” media. So when it was announced that Chase would finally follow up the series with the long-awaited prequel film “The Many Saints of Newark,” “Sopranos” fans immediately leapt into a dual state of excitement and anxiety. What if, after all this time, Chase had lost the magic that made the original series so special?
This curious blend of anticipation and waiting for the other shoe to drop feels reflected in the marketing surrounding the film, and Chase’s own admitted unease with it all. Warner Bros. has been keen to market the film as a Tony Soprano-driven prequel, playing up the casting of the late James Gandolfini’s son Michael as a dead ringer for young Tony, and even adding the subtitle “A Sopranos Story” to “Many Saints” in an effort to remind more casual fans that they were getting more of Chase’s darkly comic, slyly philosophical version of New Jersey’s mafia world. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Chase acknowledged young Tony’s part in the story, but was also quick to note that this was “about gangsters in the late ’60s, early ’70s in New Jersey,” and “not set up as a Tony Soprano origin story.”