The Tupac Shakur biopic, ALL EYEZ ON ME has been ridiculed for lacking focus, being sloppy and even inaccurate at times. Some of that criticism is fair because the film has many problems. But the biggest challenge is with its subject, the one and only Tupac. When it comes to Tupac, I put him on the same level as The Beatles, Elvis and Michael Jackson in the sense that it’s virtually impossible to capture what made them so great on film. Watching Tupac go through his struggles and rap on stage doesn’t do the man’s legacy justice. The people that love him and his music know that he transpired “gangsta rap” or B-list movie star. It’s hard to put in words what Tupac meant to society and it’s even harder to put it on film. That’s the struggle that the three writers on the film couldn’t overcome and the reason why ALL EYEZ ON ME could never overcome its problems. That, and let’s be honest here; it feels like a Lifetime movie.
Newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr. is Tupac Shakur, who we follow from a very early age, but pick up with consistently as a 17 year-old kid in Baltimore. Tupac is struggling with his addict mother and life in the projects when his mother makes him move to Los Angeles (the reason is never fully divulged or justified). His life was already rough, but in LA, it gets worse and that forces Tupac to look for ways to make money. One of those is as a backup rapper/singer for Digital Underground (you probably know them for “The Humpty Dance”). That gives him his foot in the door and it’s not long before he has his own album and is taking small parts in movies. But with the fame comes the drama and the film spends almost the entire second and third acts focusing on various incidents throughout his short-lived fame.
The film is also broken up with snippets from an interview he did in prison, where he’s recounting his life. That was a real interview, but the idea of including it here is to assert that what we’re watching is straight from his mouth. That’s true to some degree, but the issue with the film wasn’t with whether or not what we saw was true, but it was on what we didn’t see. For example, we spent a good part of the film on Tupac’s sexual assault, both from the actual incident to the courtroom drama that followed and we spent a good amount of time on the night of his death. But we only got to hear him talk about one song (‘Brenda’s Got a Baby’). He had numerous songs in that vein that I’m sure had special meaning to him or were written for a purpose, but we never got to dive into his music because so much time was spent trying to clear the air on some of his controversies.
It also felt at times that someone was standing over the filmmakers to make sure they didn’t portray Tupac or his mother in too negative of a light. We saw his mother on cocaine, but by the end she was a saint again. Although this transformation is true, I can’t imagine it was so easy for Tupac to deal with. When it comes to Tupac, it was clear he changed as soon as he started making money, but even then he’s portrayed as someone that’s incapable of changing his destiny, almost like he’s being forced to be a hothead. Again, I’m sure there’s truth to that, but the film is inconsistent with how they portray him.
You couldn’t pay me enough to direct or write a Tupac biopic because no matter what you do, even a casual Tupac fan is going to be able to rip your film apart. Director Benny Boom had done his time doing B-movies and music videos, which served him well in the concert scenes but hurt him when it came to weaving together a coherent story about a music icon. In 1995, The Beatles got a documentary anthology series that chronicled everything you’d want to know about them. I think Tupac deserves that same treatment because his life and legacy is just too complex to cram into a two hour film. Given how popular and beloved he still is, I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of Tupac on the big screen.
Video: This is a nice looking Blu-ray and is surprisingly colorful.
Audio: The audio was fine.
Legends Never Die: The Making of All Eyez on Me (26:45): The cast and crew show up to give some interviews about the making of the film.
Becoming Tupac (9:05): As the title suggests, this one looks at what Demetrius Shipp Jr. went through to become Tupac.
Demetrius Shipp, Jr. Raw Audition Tape (4:40): A look at Shipp’s audition.
All Eyez on Me Conversations (35:20): This is somewhat similar to the interviews the cast and crew gave in the making-of featurette, but it was nice to listen to them talk about Tupac and the film.