I finally saw All Eyez On Me, the Tupac Shakur biopic that’s been years in the making after a bunch of fits and starts. It was pretty universally panned by critics, but I loves me a good bad Black movie so a bad review is like catnip to a thug. Also, I’m a big fan of Tupac so there’s almost no way that I wasn’t going to see the film in theaters. With that being said, here are 10 thoughts about the movie, in no particular order.
1. It wasn’t a good movie; it wasn’t a bad movie. It was the best of times and it was the worst of times. The entire time I sat in the theater I thought to myself that it could have been so much better of a movie, but then I’d remind myself that Lifetime took a crack at Aaliyah's life, which means that it could have been waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay worse. If you’re a Pac fan, there is ALMOST nothing new here to learn. Almost. Straight Outta Compton it ain’t, but Man in the Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story it ain’t either.
2. The dude who played Snoop Dogg in the movie blew my mind. In every single review it’s been pointed out how much he sounds like Snoop. I found that hard to believe until I heard him speak. Jarrett Ellis could release an ENTIRE album right now using his Snoop voice and you’d believe Snoop dropped another album. That’s how much he sounds like Snoop. Good lordt.
3. I feel like anytime - from here on out - that we need Tupac or Biggie, they should just call Demetrius Shipp, Jr. or Jamal Woolard. Typecasting? Sure. But who the hell else are you going to call? Anthony Mackie was the worst Pac ever and should feel ashamed of himself for taking that role in Notorious.
4. It’s been said in quite a few reviews I’ve read, but the most compelling parts of the movie were those that illustrated his relationships with the women in his life, specifically his mother (played by Danai Gurira who put her foot all up and through that role), Jada (Kat Graham) in a limited capacity, and sister, Sekyiwa (Rayven Ferrell). The moments with them all were the vulnerable ones and while his vulnerable side isn’t a mystery to anybody, it was touching to see him like that on screen.
5. I knew about the relationship with Kidada, but I actually felt like THAT would been a much more interesting movie to make about Pac: A movie that functioned within the personal change and duality of the man towards the end of his life when he was with her and was trying to leave Death Row while trying to merge his West Coast and East Coast allies (the One Nation album), until the end. Everything that was in the movie was something you know if you’re a fan. I imagine there are people who don’t know much about Pac or for whom this movie was their introduction into a man they mostly know was a rapper who was killed years ago. But I feel like there was a lot left on the table regarding that relationship.
6. Which reminds me of something else, there were times where the editing made feel like this was damn near a straight to TV movie. Good gracious. It felt so phony and forced in parts, and choppy. The random animation of the Death Row logo in the middle of the film, etc. Critics were pretty hard on the directing and editing and I think it was very justified. Don't tell John Singleton that though.
7. At the same time, Demetrius Shipp, Jr. channelled the shit out of Tupac during the concert scenes. He had the movements down. The mannerisms down. The bravado down. For everything that I felt was lacking in the grander film, those scenes were done REALLY well. If you closed your eyes, you’d swear you were looking at Tupac up there.
8. Would I recommend going to see All Eyez On Me? Yes. Here’s why: It’s not the best movie, this much is true. But it’s a movie about our culture and about one of the largest figures to ever come out of the culture. That’s good enough for me. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to see it in theaters, either. But I wanted to so I could support because whether good or not, I like to see these movies about iconic figures in the Black world. Am I playing the Black card here? Yes. Yes I am. That’s the best I got.
9. I kind of wonder - and don’t think the answer is yes - if Afeni would have signed off on this movie. I know Benny Boom and L.T. Hutton have emphasized that they tried to take care with the movie and all that jazz, but part of me feels like, damn, it took over 10 years to make THIS movie? It’s basically a Tupac Behind the Music with actors playing all the scenes. Ever since Tupac Resurrection was made, part of me feels like unless you’re going to dig real deep, there’s no point in making a Pac movie. I still feel that way. This movie, in its finality, doesn’t really bring much to the Tupac table, so again, I wonder if Afeni would have signed off on this, and I think the answer is not in the way we got it.
****SPOILER ALERT IN A MOVIE WHERE YOU KNOW THE OUTCOME****
10. I’m SUPER intrigued to know if Pac and Suge were REALLY listening to “Blackberry Molasses” when he got shot. I don’t know why that was so fascinating to me but of all the songs to listen to when you get shot, that just seems so…ironic? Sad? WTFic? I don’t even know the right word. I can’t imagine that’s not true and that had to be shared by Suge. I’d never actually pondered on what they might be listening to in the car until that scene, and then I was like, “really? “Blackberry Molasses???” I’m kind of amazed this isn’t common knowledge, or if it is, how I managed to NOT know this for 21 years.