I just saw “All Eyez on Me” the other day in theaters. I wasn’t expecting very much, but needless to say, I was incredibly disappointed. What should have been a genuine tribute to the king of West Coast hip-hop turned out to be no more than a lazy two-and-a-half-hour slideshow of important moments crammed together.
My friend described it best in the theaters: “This shit is making my head hurt”.
Let’s start out with the basics: actor Demetrius Shipp Jr. obviously has the looks of Tupac Shakur. And a little bit of the mannerisms. But that’s just about all. He doesn’t remotely possess the character. And when he tries to, it either feels too restrained or else too forced.
He’s mellow at times where Pac would have been…well…more Pac-ish. And he’s incredibly forced during moments where Pac would have been…well…more Pac-ish. Tupac was a truly unique artist in that he possessed such wild intensity: an intensity that could be just as smart and charming as it could be aggressive and out-of-control at times.
He was a human being with god-like talents. Rather than juxtaposing the two, the film seems to focus on only one: the archetype. Tupac is so larger-than-life that the movie forgets to make him human. Like a typical biopic it rushes through certain parts of his life like a check box, rather than a personal narrative.
The movie looks like a patchwork quilt. Crucial events are hastily sown together in order to offer quick explanations: ergo, this is why Tupac did this, wrote this song. The segways are anything but clever. Dear Mama: the result of a prison visit from his mother. Keep Ya’ Head Up: Tupac was watching a news report/reading an article accusing him of misogyny.
The only meaningful, detailed relationship is the one he has with his mother. Jada Pinkett was short-changed. More than the true close friend she was to Shakur, the movie portrays her like a secondary “mother figure”. She always enters Pac’s life at convenient transitional moments, either to chastise him or offer congratulations. Jada Pinkett Smith rightly expressed her indignation with this portrayal via Twitter.
The Biggie-feud wasn’t really explored in depth. The New York scenes set it up perfectly, with the rising friendship between the two rappers, Tupac’s association with some of New York’s toughest dealers, and the attempted assassination after his fallout with Haitian Jack. But, after that, more or less nothing. Yeah, there’s the diss track “Hit ‘Em Up” and a few quick reactions, but not much else.
This would have been the perfect opportunity to humanize Tupac. Yes, he was a man with incredible talents. But he could also be temperamental at times, almost irrationally so. The Biggie feud was a perfect example of this. It was a moment where Pac took things WAY too far, based on a personal grudge. But in the movie he seems a little too restrained.
Rather than making Tupac responsible for his actions the movie portrayed him in a much more reactive way. His destiny is determined by those around him, rather than the man himself. As a result, Tupac’s real-life imperfections are glossed over as every action becomes synonymous with his god-like status.
And Suge Knight is cartoonishly evil. I could deal with his portrayal in a better movie like Straight Outta Compton. But “All Eyez on Me” spends almost every scene with Knight trying to hammer home his reputation as the ruthless, thuggish mastermind of Death Row Records. And it does it in an over-the-top kind of way. Basically, he kicks someone’s ass on screen in order to prove true villainy. While Suge Knight really was a thug, strong-arming artists and threatening violence to get what he wanted, his place in the film only serves to reiterate this time and time again. And it’s tiring.
But, again, all this would have been more forgivable if we had a Tupac that actually “felt” like Tupac. In life he had so many passionate qualities: wisdom, creativity, personal insight, and a charming yet child-like sense of humor. Yet the movie fails to show him as multi-faceted. He is simply Tupac the Legend, not Tupac the Man. He is about as human as a Wikipedia bio page.
The interview format of the first hour and a half only feeds into the simplicity: it takes a slew of precious moments and mixes them together like a DJ, rather than a true and honest depiction.
If you want to see a better, more in depth portrait of Tupac Shakur watch Tupac Resurrection, or pretty much any extended interview on Youtube. It’ll give you a closer, but not complete taste of what the movie should have included.
Either way, R.I.P. to one of the greatest musical artists of all time. Like so many others, you deserved a better biopic.