"You must stand for something, you must live for something and you must be willing to die for something."
So it seems that with the success of ‘Straight Outta Compton’ movie studios have assumed that rapper biopics must be a hot commodity now and have rushed to create another biopic of that nature. The problem is though that few things are worse than a studio controlled biopic, they’re not made because anyone involved has a genuine passion for the story at hand or to honour its own subject, and they are simply there to cash in on something. In this case it is hip hop artist Tupac Shakir who deserves so much better than this movie.
The film chronicles the life and legacy of hip hop artist Tupac Shakur (Demetrius Shipp Jr) and his tumultuous life and career that was tragically cut short, including his rise to superstardom, as well as his imprisonment and prolific, controversial time at Death Row Records.
So in a recent interview, the producer of ‘All Eyez on Me’ stated that he envisioned a possible cinematic universe assembled of rapper biopics. In this film for instance, James Woolard reprises his role as Notorious B.I.G from the 2009 film ‘Notorious’. To me that sounds like an atrocious idea. As I said before, biopics should reflect a filmmakers passion for their subject, or their interest in the compelling story said subject offers, to embody the essence of a person and illuminate the audience on their journey. A good biopic is not merely part of the puzzle in an ever expanding horde of sequels. If they made a Jimi Hendrix biopic that turned out to just be a prequel to an upcoming Janis Joplin biopic because they met at Woodstock, I’d be pretty annoyed.
I give that as an example because I’m not a huge fan of Tupac Shakir’s music on a personal level at least. I can however, admire it and recognise what a talented artist he was as well as how interesting, if not also very controversial, story his life would make in the hands of someone who actually seemed to care about it. Right from the start you can just sense that this biopic seems to have zero to no investment in Tupac’s actual life, especially because it’s rife with inaccuracies. By that I don’t just mean inaccuracies only fans of the late rapper would notice, I mean things like showing an iPhone 7 in the shot despite the film supposedly being set in the 1990s.
But of course biopics don’t have to be 100% accurate (in fact, very few are), what is important is that they convey the essence and emotion of the story, informing us of what it felt like to experience it. ‘All Eyez on Me’ seems to think it can win fans of its subject over by siting numerous references to him without context or weight behind them, so it’s caught in an awkward middle ground in which it is too loaded with jargon for a newcomer to enjoy but also too unfaithful to the story for actual fans to appreciate it.
If anything the movie seems to want to dehumanise its subject because it robs Tupac of so much of his complexity. I understand my criticisms may seem like they’re coming more from a place of comparing the movie to reality and being disappointed that it doesn’t live up to reality. But as I said, I’m not inversed in this story, I know the basic elements of it and even I can tell it is worth telling better than this. By judging the character of Tupac solely from the way he is portrayed in this movie, he is flat and monotone, rarely rising above the most basic level of your generic musician from movies and failing to be compelling throughout. Shipp Jr does a serviceable job of portraying this version of Tupac and in all honesty I would be interested to see what he could do with a more complex script, but here it just feels unbelievably shallow and only occasionally inspired.
In fact, “flat and monotone” basically describes every aspect of this movie. It just all feels o painfully bland. The dialogue is as by the numbers as they come, the direction possesses no visual flair nor does it ever manage to compose a compelling shot. That lifeless direction weighs down the whole movie to a point where even when the script does feel as if it is touching upon something other than a pitifully generic rise and fall story the images on screen remain as basic as you can imagine. It feels like a soap opera, or a Lifetime original movie. Nothing pops, noting jumps out at you and nothing leaves a lasting impression.
For all the movie’s faults though, there is some hint of an emotional arc that runs throughout the movie, it isn’t expanded upon to a point where it might be compelling but it is recognizable. Its structure and pacing allow it to unfold in a decent way, if anything one could argue that the barebones construction of the story is a good place to start. What needed to happen from that point though, was some genuine humanity and a sense of purpose which the finished product simply did not possess.
Bland and uninspired, ‘All Eyez on Me’ is the exact opposite of its namesake.