Tupac Amaru Shakur has been described as a second generation revolutionary, poet, actor, and above all the greatest rapper of all time. Though Tupac’s life was cut short at only 25 years young after being murdered on September 13th 1996, his impact on the world will resonate forever. If you know me, then you know that I am a die-hard PAC fan, so to say that I was excited about the release of the biopic on our shared birthday, June 16th, is an understatement. Naturally, I really really wanted this movie to be great. I even saw it twice, before settling into my opinions about the film. However, it did not deliver and I’m going to give y’all the good, bad, and ugly as to why.
*By continuing to read, you are acknowledging that this contains SPOILERS from the film*
I’ll be honest, this part will be short….First let me say that Demetrius Shipp Jr. did a great job in his portrayal of Tupac. He got his mannerisms down. When he first spoke during the prison interview, I got goose bumps he sounded just like Pac. I had high hopes for what was to follow.
I really appreciated that producer/creator/director LT Hutton and Benny Boom started the film with the history of Mutulu and Afeni Shakur; how they cultivated an intelligent revolutionary within Pac’s DNA.
Although I would have preferred if the dialogue was not a cut & paste job pulling from different interviews, I was pleased to see the interview about the back story behind the song Brenda’s Got a Baby was infused in a conversation with Interscope execs leading to Tupac having to explain the importance of telling our stories, no matter how depressing and uncomfortable they are for the outter city to hear.
Lastly, I was glad to see that the film makers got clearances on PAC’s music and the House of Blues performances were good. I caught myself getting a little hype in the theater as he ran through that set list.
Now, on to what I did not like…
All Eyez on Me missed some critical nuances that would have added to viewers understanding of Tupac’s personality and actions. For one, there was no character depth. The film makers did not tap into the high levels of emotions, sometimes contradictory, that PAC displayed (he was a Gemini after all). The emotions in the film seemed very surface level without much effort. Instead of focusing on character/personality development it seemed as though the film was focused on creating a narrative around the different headlines in Pac's career.
The film glossed over and rushed through Tupac’s childhood including the profound impact of the crack epidemic on his family unit, his stuggles with being on welfare, and his void of a father figure; which could have added some perspective to his detrimental friendship with Nigel (NY promoter who set him up) and his attachment to Suge Knight and Death Row.
Throughout the film it was never quite clear when he actually reached his fame and why he was becoming influential. The cinematic transitions in the film were very choppy with no fluidity, making it difficult to follow the progression of his career. Sure they showed the movies, legal troubles and headlines, including the reactions of Vice President Dan Quayle and C. Delores Tucker. But even that in my opinion was a lazy way of showing that Tupac’s voice and lyrics were powerful.
It would have made more sense, at the very least to mention the songs (Trapped, Words of Wisdom, Violent, and Soulja’s Story) in his debut album 2Pacalypse Now, where he charges people to build a sense of community and fight back against oppression and brutality which lead to on one hand his popularity among his people, but at the same time his disapproval by the likes of California Police Department and VP Quayle.
All Eyez on Me did not magnify how passionate and outspoken PAC felt about the struggles in black communities including poverty and injustice causing his words to spark an up rise in social consciousness and awareness. To take a note from 2015’s Straight Out of Compton biopic, All Eyez on Me did not create that social climate of injustice that plagued the 90’s including the Rodney King beating and Latasha Harlins murder, which Tupac referenced in many of his songs. By leaving out that central theme that the black community felt at that time, it seemed like Tupac was just a rebel without a cause rather than a Rebel of the Underground.
I did not like that they chose to start his narrative and story while he was in prison. The film creators did a half-ass job of “recreating” the actual prison interview, leaving out some of the crucial moments in which Pac explains his emotional state while being locked up; his diminished spirit, inability to create, his plans for future community programs and coalitions to stop the violence and senseless killings, and his change of mentality from Thug Life to Outlaw. Yet they dropped a random prison murder in the story line, not quite sure the purpose behind that.
I was surprised that there was no mention of the Hughes Brothers fight and the Yo! MTV Raps interview which caused Pac to be dropped from Menace II Society. This would have added that character development piece of how Pac was a flawed, very impulsive individual but he was real and rooted in his emotions and towards the end of his life he was acknowledging his mistakes and wanted the opportunity to mature and grow.
The film completely simplified the Tupac vs. Biggie beef, the aftermath, and the casualties when in reality an entire country was split between two coasts over a rap beef. The East Coast vs. West Coast "war" got so bad that PAC and Snoop had to address it in an interview to clarify the situation.
On the topic of the PAC vs. Biggie feud, All Eyez On Me did not convey the immense betrayal and enraged state that PAC felt after he was shot (have you listened to the end of Hit Em Up!?...) and after the rape allegations. PAC was extremely paranoid, having prophecy's about death (Death Around The Corner, If I Die 2Nite) which is why his work ethic was in overdrive; he was in the studio recording 3+ songs per day.
All Eyez on Me felt like it was just rushing to make it to the Death Row chapter of Tupac’s life. Hutton and Boom spent a great deal of energy around Suge, the Death Row family, and very awkward Snoop voice over scenes.
The ending was absolute trash. I don’t even know where to begin. The gospel song they chose during the death scene was entirely too loud, overpowering, cheesy, rushed, just all over the place...Then a PowerPoint presentation of Pac's resume and a 10 second snippet of an interview concludes the film. Like …WHAT…? I was very disappointed.
Overall the film presented as lazy screen writing, incomplete character development, amateur directing and cinematography, and the biggest disservice to the complexities that made Tupac Shakur who he was.
The reason I disagree with those saying that All Eyez on Me is a great movie is because if this movie was just about a controversial rapper in the 90's then yeah, maybe this movie was good. If it was just about a kid from poverty that beat the odds and made it to fame, then yeah maybe it was good. Or if it was just about a young man trying to navigate being a celebrity with a platform, then yeah maybe it was good. But that's not what this movie was just about.
This movie was about THE LEGEND Tupac Amaru Shakur; an icon that 20 years after his murder, no one has yet to even come close to the trilogy of talent, intellect, and global influence that he has. The enormous effect that Tupac Shakur has had on fans, musicians, and activism was not felt in the delivery of this film. All Eyez on Me did not live up to its subject. Sorry not sorry. It wasn't great, it was just okay.
In the words of Marlon Wayans “God could not have written a better character [than Tupac Shakur]” and unfortunately the makers of this film could not either.
In the spirit of Tupac appreciation, the following are some of my favorite interviews/speeches
'92 BET interview:
'92 Malcolm X Grass Roots Conference:
'92 Christmas interview:
'92 E! News Interview:
'94 Court Interview:
'94 Ed Gordon BET interview:
MTV '94 Interview:
'95 Clinton Prison interview: