Although it may sound strange, I was saddened by the prospect of a biopic titled All Eyez on Me based on the life of Hip-Hop icon Tupac Amaru Shakur. Ironically, it is Tupac Amaru Shakur’s complexity and multi-dimensionality that birthed my reservations regarding this project. At the center of my concerns was a fear that a mere biopic from some random Hollywood studio would fall far short of capitalizing on this gripping story by failing to tell this story in a courageous manner that exposed the most recent generation of youth around the globe to the genius that I knew as Tupac Amaru Shakur.
Unfortunately for Tupac’s legacy, my fears and consternations regarding this project have come to fruition. Put simply; the makers of this biopic have dropped the ball at a crucial moment and thereby wasted a never to be retrieved opportunity to raise the consciousness of a nation regarding contestable issues such as Manhood, Race, and Culture.
After viewing All Eyez on Me it is clear that the filmmakers were doomed from the beginning as the traditional two-hour time constraints placed on a big screen biopic is too brief a period to convey the life of a figure whose life mirrors sixties radicalism and the ends-justify-the-means materialism that had come to represent Black America at this present moment.
If Bigger Thomas was Black America’s Depression Era Native Son, Tupac Amaru Shakur holds the same position for his generation. The life of Tupac Amaru Shakur reflects the hopes of Black Powerites, the failings of black love, the pain of being entrapped in a disassembled urban community, and the joy of occasional, fleeting triumphs.
It is the multi-dimensionality stated above that eludes so many writers and filmmakers who attempt to capture both the essence of Black America and the life of Tupac Amaru Shakur. Make no mistake about it, Tupac was an elusive character who at opportune moments willingly adorned himself with every caricature that supporters and opponents place on African-American males: revolutionary, thug, intellectual, hoodlum, genius, emcee, Panther, prophet, prognosticator. Tupac wore all of these hats for a gawking audience that somehow managed to not see the purity of Tupac’s soul despite his eagerness to reveal its contents to anyone willing to listen intently.
There is little doubt that Alex Haley’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X serves as the defining moment in the politicization of legions of African-Americans across several decades, All Eyez on Me held the same potential. Unfortunately, this biopic is a convoluted mess of missed opportunities. Instead of digging their heels in and sacrificing elements of entertainments by accentuating significant political issues and matters that Tupac faced throughout his entire life, filmmakers too frequently abandoned this noble path in favor of stereotypical clichés of “ghetto” behavior that ultimately degraded both black men and women.
When considered in its entirety, All Eyez on Me is at best a superficial portrait of Black America’s most prominent post-Black Power Era figure; yes, I do believe that Tupac’s influence extends well beyond that of former President Barack Hussein Obama. What is most disturbing about this biopic’s failings is that Tupac Amaru Shakur’s story holds so much potential to explain the rocky road that Black America has traveled during the past four decades. In every way, the glaring failings and missed moments that mar this biopic are inexcusable. Such issues are made more significant when we realize that this grand opportunity to offer a new generation the biting social and political commentary that undergirded Tupac Amaru Shakur’s entire existence is a missed opportunity that will never be reclaimed as we will never see another Tupac as long as we live.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2017.