By Cameron McArthur
Tupac Shakur’s complicated relationship with the media helped define his legacy. In his short lifetime, Pac was portrayed at once as an artist, a villain, an activist and a thug. The long anticipated biopic All Eyez On Me felt like an opportunity to delve deep into the rapper’s psyche and explore the motivations behind his seemingly contradictory life. Instead, the producers of All Eyez On Me present an uninspired re-enactment of Tupac’s life from 1972 to 1996.
The beginning of All Eyez On Me is spent on small vignettes from Tupac’s childhood. These scenes with his mother, Black Panther revolutionary Afeni Shakur, should be the emotional core of the film. Her resilient spirit and tumultuous relationship with her son clearly helped mold Pac into greatness. Their interactions end up feeling more like a wink to the audience as inspiration for his 1995 hit “Dear Mama.”
There was no shortage of defining moments in Tupac’s life. Instead of focusing on these moments, the viewer is taken through Pac’s life with the pace and subtlety of a made-for-TV mini-series. The most powerful scenes are recreations of well-known interviews and performances that have long been available to the public.
A background in music videos helped directors like Hype Williams and Spike Jonze immediately translate distinct visual styles to the big screen. Benny Boom simply feels out of his league directing All Eyez On Me. His experience with music videos doesn’t even particularly lend itself to the musical scenes in the film. The best thing that can be said about Boom’s direction is that it is mostly unobtrusive.
Much of 2Pac’s strength as an artist lay in his ability to express complex emotions in a straightforward and relatable manner. His words were simple and direct, yet always contained a depth of thought and emotion behind them. Although Demetrius Shipp Jr. plays a believable Pac, the movie feels void of the emotion behind the man.
If the filmmakers had focused on just one era of 2Pac’s life, perhaps they could’ve better channelled the complexity of his character. Unfortunately, they missed the mark trying to recreate too much of his story with not enough thought behind the events. Hip hop stories are so rarely told in Hollywood that 2Pac fans will still want to see this movie regardless of its shortcomings. Just don’t expect to gain many new insights on his life.2pac, all eyez on me