The new movie about Tupac Shakur's life, All Eyez On Me, has become as divisive as the debate over the rapper's murder. After much anticipation, the film debuted to stinging criticism from critics—its Rotten Tomatoes score hovers below 24 percent—as well as from 50 Cent, Shakur's Poetic Justice director John Singleton, and his close friend and Baltimore School for the Arts classmate Jada Pinkett Smith.
And yet, All Eyez On Me has exceeded box-office expectations by hauling in $27 million during its June 16 opening weekend. I like Shakur's music, always have, but growing up, I didn't follow him as much as most people I know. So I went into the screening with fresh eyez, hoping that, despite the rebukes, the biopic would fill me in on what I missed. Here are my takeaways:
I understand the movie focuses on parts of Tupac's life after each album dropped, but I felt like I was asking questions to myself throughout the movie. I grew up listening to various styles of music and only knew the mainstream Pac songs I heard on the radio or in the club. What I didn't know (or don't remember) were all the obstacles and struggles he dealt with, so I was expecting this movie to be like a Tupac 101, and it was more advanced for sure. I understand it's hard to cram so much of one person's life into two hours, but I felt it would have been worth the extra minutes to add more details about his life.
2. STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON.
So why would Straight Outta Compton make or break a movie about Tupac? Well, it's simple: Compton was so detailed and well-thought-out it made me want to go buy all the N.W.A and gangsta-rap CDs I could find. It would be crazy not to expect the same or more from Eyez, so I was a little disappointed when I didn't get that same feeling. I know it was a different director, but maybe Eyez's Benny Boom should have contacted Compton's Felix Gary Gray for some tips on how to not cut corners and what people are looking for in a movie like this. I just didn't get as much fulfillment here as I did with Compton, which, to be fair, did set the bar very high.
3. MORE THAN MUSIC.
While Eyez did reflect on key parts of Pac's music career, what I enjoyed most were the scenes offstage. I got to see the struggles he dealt with in his personal life, not just hear about it through his music. I always thought he had resentment toward his mother, but the film portrayed the opposite of that. I also thought I would recognize things in his life as shown onscreen that were in his lyrics. For example, there were no clips of his "crack baby" brother. The parts in the movie that show Pac with the woman he loves depict a softer side of him, which was a pleasure to see. The movie put the issues he faced being black, male and a rapper into perspective for those who have never experienced things like that. From unlawful harassment to the alleged-rape case, it seemed as if people in authority loved to hate him.
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4. DEMETRIUS SHIPP JR.
I know they say everyone has a twin out there, but damn! The first time I saw Shipp, he looked so similar to Pac that I tripped over my own feet and almost dropped my drink. I think Boom and his team did a phenomenal job finding a lookalike. That said, while Shipp played the part well, I wished for a little more aggression from him. His Pac carried a gun and fought anyone at the drop of a dime, yet he gave off a softer, more sensitive feeling.
5. IT WAS REAL SHITTY.
There is no better way to describe it. Tupac was a product of his environment, and he rose above it to success. He sold more than 75 million records worldwide and released 11 platinum records, making him one of the highest-selling rap artists of all time. His devotion to his fans and his people was unparalleled. And that is what probably cost him his life. He made a choice to not stay in a Las Vegas hotel room with his girl; the movie showed him debating outside the door for a minute. How could he know that tiny decision would be his last? All Eyez On Me will continue to remind us that Shakur was an amazing, talented man who left us too soon, but his inspiration will never die.
All Eyez On Me was directed by Benny Boom; written by Jeremy Haft, Eddie Gonzalez and Steven Bagatourian; and stars Demetrius Shipp Jr., Danai Gurira and Kat Graham.