It’s just a trailer. A snapshot, meant to spark interest. But this one has to carry a little more weight on its shoulders, with a built-in audience that has long clamored for this story (any story, really) to continue the supremely revered Sopranos legacy.
It’s unfair, really, because a trailer can’t live up to the expectations or deliver all the things. A movie might not even be able to. But we’ll evaluate how close they get… on October 1 when it hits theaters and HBO Max. For now, we’ve got this snapshot and a more broad question about what this movie is meant to be.
Loud, epic, and intense — those are the words that come to mind after watching the trailer. Familiar is another one as it throws around names and places — the pork store and the diner (Holsten’s) where the series ended — that fans will recognize. There are also familiar faces in new (and old) roles, none more noteworthy than Michael Gandolfini, the son of late Sopranos star James Gandolfini.
Tony Soprano is one of the most indelible characters in TV history. No one could follow in his footsteps fully, but his son is already seeming like an inspired choice in this brief glimpse. Someone who can get scarily close. The look is clearly, obviously there, so too the physicality, but there’s something else that’s barely visited upon which might speak volumes.
It’s a blink and you’ll miss it moment in the trailer that should spark as much excitement as the idea of Vera Farmiga trying to put her own spin on Nancy Marchand’s ever repressive Livia Soprano character or the seemingly unchained Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola). It’s Tony, laying in his room, seemingly lost in the rhythms of a favorite song. In that scene, we’re seeing a layer of Tony that fans of the show know: the Tony who is not Scarface (or Dickie, who seems more of that mold). He’s not 2D. He’s a monster, for sure, but one who is sometimes vulnerable and sometimes pushed into a kind of obliviousness that’s meant to protect him from the curse of self-awareness and knowingly violent hypocrisy. Because of that, Tony is the most nuanced of all the fictional mob icons, which is what makes him the most deeply embedded in entertainment culture. And so, when we see that moment, it feels like a nod to all that and to scenes like Tony in the pool feeding ducks or driving in his car getting weepy over a love song.
With the setting of a tense and simmering Newark in the midst of a race riot, this was always bound to be more of an explosive story absent some of the casual lightness and contemplation that elevated the show (and Tony). It’s also one about Tony becoming who he was — warts and all. So while we may not see him as the more complex version of himself, that may make sense considering, at this stage, he’s got a whole lot of informative (and scarring) life experiences in front of him with plenty doled out by members of his family like Dickie and both his father (played by Jon Bernthal) and Uncle Junior (played by Corey Stoll) — even though we don’t get much of a read on how heavily they’ll factor into the movie in the trailer.
Outside of that moment and a few others, the trailer looks more action-packed than a typical Sopranos episode. Maybe that’s strategic as a means of attracting a young audience to something that might be a bridge to the series more than a reward for years of faithful viewing and love. And maybe it’s the reality of making a movie and not having the luxury of television’s deliberate pacing where you could modulate tones more fully or play around with things like dream sequences.
If that music scene is little more than a nod and we’re in for a more ferocious and less contemplative Tony, then that will be fine. It might be great. But it will definitely be different. This trailer might be saying exactly that.