5 reasons “All Eyez on Me” Wasn’t Ready for the Big Screen
This weekend, the long awaited Tupac Shakur biopic, All Eyez on Me opened with as much scrutiny as accolade. On one hand, the uncanny resemblance of the lead actor, Demetrius Shipp Jr. (Tupac Shakur) made the rounds of every major TV and Radio talk show, giving movie goers hope that their street legend’s silver-screen spectacle would be a welcome addition along side other biographical dramas of the ill-fated artist’s contemporaries (Biggie Smalls and Easy E). Meanwhile, the talk as of Friday morning was both of 50 Cent’s and Jada Pinkett Smith’s complaints that this film would not be the experience we all were hoping for. The result comes down to either, A) if you saw the film you no doubt have mixed feelings (like us) OR you have decided to wait until the dust settles to spend your time and money. So to aid both sides of the situation, we took the time to watch, process and give you a heads up/discussion piece: Here are the 5 Reasons All Eyez on Me Was NOT ready for the Big Screen.
#1 – The Snoop Dogg Casting Debacle –
Probably the most laughably cringy thing about this movie is the Nick Cannon look-alike they hired to play Snoop. When he comes on screen, he appears awkward for a reason that you can’t quite pinpoint at first. Then after the laughter settles in the theater (yes everyone in the theater erupted in cackles, during our viewing) you realize why this is the #1 on the list – he’s been overdubbed like a bad anime adapted for an American audience. Apparently this guy’s impression was so bad in production that the filmmakers decided to hire the real Snoop Lion to do voiceovers for the younger actor hired to portray him. The result is a distraction every time ol’ dude has lines – hilarious and sad.
#2 – Awkward Exposition Scenes –
The art of exposition reaches mastery when filmmakers can further the plot without having to literally explain to the audience what is going on. The best movies can do this with context clues in the scene, subtle chords in the musical score and/or well-casted actors that can recite lines with amazing channeling of subtext and manipulate lines to convey the true meaning behind what is written on the page. The alternative is usually bad screenwriting that no actor could ever elevate and/or inexperienced actors under poor direction. The latter of which is why we got DeRay Davis playing a father figure of Tupac’s reciting his lines like a character out of Black Dynamite (yes they did) followed by the most awkward “nigga where’s my money” scene in the history of dramatization. That’s just one example of several scenes added to establish plot lines that could have been left out altogether, especially considering that the film runs a little long. Other examples include a prison shanking scene of nameless characters, repeated prison interview scenes that ended up going nowhere, and pretty much any scene that focused on Snoop (I thought this was a Tupac movie, no?). All of which are unnecessary scenes that felt clunky and made-for-TV.
#3 – Is this a Broadway Musical or what? Awkward Performance Scenes –
In both Notorius and Straight Outta Compton we, as an audience, were treated to a behind-the-scenes look at how the hits were made and given a sneak peek on the creative process of beloved legends. Not so much in this film. Aside from a couple of brief scenes (one where you see Tupac go from studio-to-studio in single day and another where we see Pac verbally abuse an engineer), we never really see a concerted effort to focus on the creativity and work-ethic that cultivated Shakur’s inspiration or creative process. Instead, pretty much every performance scene feels like musical theater where the character randomly breaks out in song and dance, rather than serving as a recreation of what happened on real life. For example “California Love” takes place in a audio control-room recording booth with canned stage lights mimicking something out of Rock of Ages or Dreamgirls. Another time after Afeni Shakur walks out of prison crying, predictably “Dear Mama” plays to portray her angst in a long walk down a sidewalk with no artistic editing choices (rather than seeing flashbacks, cuts to Pac watching her walk away, or even seeing him pen his classic). The worst of these is “I Get Around” where we just see Pac argue with a nameless reporter who admonishes the young artist for making such a song, then jumps to Tupac sitting in that memorable bubble bath tub bopping around singing into the camera but serving no real plot point other than to perform the song – again no creative editing…just him rapping…with bikini models…then cut to unrelated scene.
#4 Lack Luster Scene Selection –
During the post-production phase, all of the raw footage shot is processed, logged and combined to tell the story – then reviewed and further trimmed down until the film can flow seamlessly for viewing in one sitting…at least that is how it’s supposed to work. Remember that DeRay scene, the prison fight and those musical theater-sequel scenes aforementioned? Get ready to be disappointed because all of that was left in, over touching on more relevant subject matter – like his actual climb to getting discovered (which they rush through), filming Poetic Justice/working with Janet Jackson (which they make no mention of), and probably the most infamous of all of these and expected to see recreated the Hughes Brothers feud that resulted in Lorenz Tate’s stardom with an iconic role in Menace II Society for which Pac originally was cast. Furthermore, John Singleton isn’t even in this film despite him and Tupac having a relatively-long working relationship (despite his short career). The result is a lot of stuff that we really don’t care about that take away rather than add to the story.
#5 BET or Lifetime would have done just as good –
Over the years we’ve seen made-for-tv miniseries films (like The Jackson’s An American Dream and The Temptations) that are still in constant rotation to sate our lament for legendary artists. Likewise, more recently, BET did quite a good job on The New Edition Story that had social media buzzing. All Eyez On Me sadly feels like a made-for-tv film that got a limited theatrical release. Nothing about this release feels as major as the other Hollywood biopics of recent memory. Shipp and many of his cast-mates are unknowns who feel not quite prepared for the big screen. Editing, costume, scenic design and direction of actors also feel out of the element for major cinema, almost like the whole production staff needs to go back to film school.
Conclusion – Should you go see it or not?
At the end of the day – Is this a bad movie? Nah it’s aiight. But for all the money spent and the time this project was developed and hyped prior to filming, it is not out of line to have expected…something more. So if you expected the same experience that Notorius and Straight Outta Compton (or 8 Mile and Get Rich or Die Tryin) gave you…lower your expectations. This retelling of Tupac’s life is SUPER-basic which is why 50 said what he said. For a godfather of rap, All Eyez on Me isn’t the film Tupac would have been happy with and would have probably asked to be re-edited and re-cast to compete with his fellow legend’s films. But it’s an okay film tho. For real. Tupac, Biggie, Faith Evans, Suge Knight are all portrayed well enough and are worth the view…just not at the theater. PRO-TIP: Wait until matinee and don’t overpay for the ticket OR just wait until on-demand availability (Netflix/Redbox).