You might have heard by now that the Tupac biopic All Eyez On Me didn’t do too well. Billed as the definitive biopic on the iconic rapper’s life, the movie flopped with critics and also underperformed at the box office. One review called it little more than a “faithful adaptation of Tupac Shakur’s Wikipedia page,” and that seemed to sum up the critical consensus. People felt that the movie was too direct, and lacked the depth or feeling to make a real impact.
Here’s a bit more on why the film was particularly disappointing.
It Left The Story Untold
Tupac is one of the most fascinating figures in music over the last 50 years, and maybe the most fascinating person in Hip Hop. For a biopic on his life to come across like a visualized bullet list of life events is a shame—particularly when some of those events don’t even seem to have been portrayed correctly. In the aftermath of the release, actress Jada Pinkett-Smith, who was close to Pac, made headlines by suggesting that much of the artist’s story wasn’t told, and that the parts concerning her were inaccurate. She’s gone so far as to suggest she might write her own biography of Tupac in order to set the record straight. When a former friend of the artist is going to those kinds of lengths to correct a story, you know the story wasn’t told well (or told thoroughly enough).
It Could Have Been Oscar-Worthy
The last few years have brought about a resurgence in music-related films, and some of them have gotten award consideration. In 2016, Straight Outta Compton won the BET Award for Best Movie, and was considered the biggest snub of the Oscar nominations. Last year, the lead up to the Oscars was all about the original musical La La Land, though it didn’t actually wind up winning Best Picture as it was predicted to. And this summer the new movie Baby Driver is all the rage largely because of its creative use of sound. It may also be an award contender. If All Eyez On Me had been as good as it should have been, we might not just be talking about a great Tupac biopic, but one that could go down in history. The climate in the film industry was ripe for it.
An Unusual Actor Was Wasted
Even the pickiest and most hardcore Tupac fans can probably admit that Demetrius Shipp Jr., the 28-year-old actor who played the artist in All Eyez On Me, looks a great deal like Pac. Some have even called the resemblance uncanny. Furthermore, Shipp Jr. claims he auditioned for five years for the part, which implies he was more than ready to take it on. The fact that the project flipped between several directors and ultimately landed in the hands of the unproven Benny Boom seems to have eclipsed the natural fit of the actor. Whether because he came up short personally or wasn’t directed well, Shipp Jr. just wasn’t as compelling a Tupac as he could and should have been.
The truth is that if you enjoy Tupac and you accept that the movie is flawed, you might still enjoy it. Don’t let the reviews, or this article, scare you off. At best it’s a decent, passively enjoyable project when it ought to have been something special. Let’s hope someone does a better job in the near future, because if any Hip Hop star deserves a flawless biopic, it’s Pac.