“All Eyez on Me” stars; Demetrius Shipp Jr., Danai Gurira, Kat Graham, and Hill Harper. It’s directed by Benny Boom, and of course follows the life of Tupac Shakur from his childhood, up until his tragic death in Las Vegas at the age of 25.
Now this will certainly be a divisive film for everyone. Mainly because I think it will depend on what you are looking for out of it. I do like biopic’s. When done properly they can be gripping and informative movies that paint a clear picture of who or what they are based on.
But no matter how good they are, they are still biopics and not documentaries. So, for those who want to learn more about the deeper layers of Tupac’s life, you will find this movie disappointing. But if you look back and follow the journey this film has taken to final get a theatrical release, a deeper insight into Tupac’s life was an unrealistic expectation. That’s not to say it shouldn’t have been expected. Because with any biopic you want to learn more about the subject. But after hearing of all the jostling back-and-forth this project went through from a studio aspect dating all the way back to 2011.
Not to mention Antoine Fuqua being attached, then not attached to direct. Then John Singleton comes into the picture. Him being the only one to reportedly have Afeni Shakur’s full blessing to tell her son’s story. Then he bails on the project due to what was cited as MAJOR creative differences with the studio heads on what this story should deliver in substance, tone, and message. So, the fact this film was still going forward would tell you that director Benny Boom was directing the film the studios wanted. Now regardless, Tupac is charismatic figure in so many aspects that to assume a two-hour film could cover this man’s short life with proper examination is, a hefty task.
It is reported that John Singleton is still campaigning to tell his own Tupac story and I hope he can. I also hope it can be made as a mini-series on Netflix or a similar platform. That will allow this incredible life story to evolve with the needed detail that could cover 6 to 8 episodes.
But we do have “All Eyez on Me” as well as a wealth of quality documentaries on Tupac, that will teach you more about this man than even the best of biopics could. Therefore, going into “All Eyez on Me” I was expecting more nostalgia than knowledge and that was exactly what it gave me. Tupac passed away during my senior year in high-school so I remember his rise to stardom. I actually got to see him perform at Summer Jam in Washington State in 1993 when I was in the 10th grade and I will never forget it.
So, for me this film revisited many of the incidents and stepping stones during the rise of his career that I remember at the time which made this movie, for me at least, an entertaining walk down memory lane. This movie may not have gone into the deeper insight of Tupac’s belief system but it touched on a lot of it enough allow the viewer to build their own substance around it from what was remembered.
Which will definitely make this film more appealing to that older generation who lived through this time. Who remember the articles, news reports, movies, his cultural and social relevance, and his impactful music. A younger generation may not be able to grab the same nostalgia from this one which could result in it being a little ordinary in its story direction and lacking in substance.
The story-line does try to cover a lot of his life but there are surely some gaps. And other than a couple scenarios that are looked at a little more in depth, most of the story does feel like it has a bullet-point progression. Tupac had an electrifying persona. One that could be volatile at times, and heartfelt and intellectual during others. Which should have led to a wealth of passion in telling this story but it was missing. The movie felt like an emotionless retelling of events and scenarios that were quite the opposite and it did hinder some of the impact in the delivery.
I did think the performances were all very good. You have to give it up to Demetrius Shipp Jr., he put in the effort and you can see he invested in this role. Not all of the mannerisms and gestures translated perfectly but he did embody the role much more than simply in appearance.
This was his first major credited performance and he pulled it off. Which did sort of create an unfortunate feeling as I thought a handful of times during this film how awesome it would have been to see him playing Tupac in Singleton’s version of the story. He captured the emotion and anger at the right levels and in my opinion, he brought the level of entertainment in this film up a notch. Danai Gurira was also fantastic as Tupac’s mother. She really sets the tone early on with some powerful delivery of her dialogue. She also connected well with Shipp Jr. and they build that needed chemistry.
Now on the down side, other than this story being clearly held back in its message, was the casting of Snoop Dogg. More specifically the audio dubbing of Snoops voice over the actor portraying him. It was awkward. The short phrases sounded like bits from the Snoop Dogg audio pack from ‘Call of Duty’ and it looked and sounded very unnatural. But luckily it was a minimal part of the overall film.
It also had some pacing issues and could have been condensed a bit on the back half. But I still found it engaging. It incorporated the music well into the story and selected the right songs at the right times and for me it brought back a ton of memories. It certainly was watered down and didn’t tell the impactful story that should have come from the life of Tupac. But given the history of this project, we should have known it wouldn’t. So, for that aspect you take the film at face value.
Does it entertain? For me it did. Did the story show effort? I felt it did despite some restraints. Did the performances connect with you and show effort? I think they absolutely did. Sure, it was like a ‘True Hollywood Story’ style telling of Tupac’s history. But if you want to revisit key moments of Tupac’s life I think this film is much stronger as a companion piece.
Watch two or three of the quality documentaries out there. Then watch this film to see certain events reenacted. As well as to be able to capture all the substance that this film unfortunately only brushes on in the dialogue. Doing so will also allow you to see what this movie left out, or possibly embellished on. That is how I think this film is best served. But as it was I enjoyed it, the nostalgia definitely worked more for me given I knew much of the backstory already. Also if you have a nice surround system at home a theater experience is not necessary but it is worth a watch. Despite feeling like a tame, summer pop-corn biopic, there is some fun in this one.