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All Eyez On the Tupac Biopic: A Box Office Hit, a Flop With the Fans

We look at the success and the backlash of ‘All Eyez on Me’ from a Tupac fan’s perspective.
By  · Published on June 19th, 2017

We look at the success and the backlash of ‘All Eyez on Me’ from a Tupac fan’s perspective.

Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no denying All Eyez on Me is a box office hit. The Tupac Shakur biopic had an estimated gross of $27M in its opening weekend, scoring above most estimates in the $17M to $22M range.

In terms of hip-hop biopics, it’s still a long way off from the success of Straight Outta of Compton, which grossed a whopping 202M worldwide two years ago after debuting with $60M. But on the other hand, it had a better opening than Notorious, the Biggie Smalls biopic, which grossed 20M (still just $24M adjusted for inflation) in its first weekend in 2009.

After a long-standing feud since 1995 between West Coast and East Coast rappers, it’s finally safe to say West Coast has prevailed on top, cinematically anyway, with Tupac leading the way with All Eyez on Me. Though all the biopics mentioned above have interlocking characters and events, each delivery has either spawned praise or criticism.

It’s impossible to please every person that leaves the theater, but when does the criticism actually matter? Is it a telltale sign when people closest to the subject matter criticize depictions of certain occurrences?

Despite receiving backlash from viewers such as 50 cent, John Singleton (who was once set to direct the film), and Jada Pinkett Smith, best friend to Tupac (she’s played in the film by Kat Graham), All Eyez on Me continues to bring in the numbers, challenging disapproval.

Having been anticipated since at least 2009, after the release of Notorious, it’s no surprise that tickets are being bought out all across America, but after being in production for over two years and a $45M budget, where could the movie have possibly gone wrong?

One of the main areas of concern with All Eyez on Me is the portrayal of Tupac and Pinkett Smith’s friendship during high school in Baltimore. It’s a much-known fact that she deeply appreciated the relationship, so it was no surprise she makes multiple appearances throughout the biopic.

The issue, though, is that the reimagined role, as played by Graham, left Pinkett Smith feeling displeased and even hurt. She voiced her opinion on Twitter, pardoning actors Demetrius Shipp Jr and Graham for their roles in the film’s production.

That was the first thing Pinkett Smith tweeted Saturday morning before listing off a number of reenactments that never occurred between the two, including a scene that consists of Tupac reading a poem entitled “Jada” to her (see more tweets collected by CNN). Though the poem and Tupac’s emotions towards Pinkett Smith were very real, the revelation of the poem’s existence didn’t come to be until after the rapper’s death in 1996.

An argument that ensues between the two friends backstage is another of the many details just added to magnify the intensity of the plot. Of course, being that it’s a Hollywood biopic, there’s always a level of glitter glossed on even the saddest of storylines, and  All Eyez on Me certainly succeeds in doing that. The highs and lows of Tupac’s life are captured but never expanded upon.

Much like the rapper himself, Tupac’s biopic has been met with mixed reviews. Viewers are leaving theaters with an overall feeling the movie misses the mark. All Eyez on Me has noteworthy cinematography and even better juxtaposition of music littered through the film, but besides that, it does little justice to its subject.

After nearly two and a half hours spent watching the life of an icon unfold, you would expect to have a newfound understanding of the figure and the motives behind his actions, but All Eyez on Me fails to achieve this. Straight Outta Compton features multiple main characters who seem to evolve into men that we feel like we know. Sadly, that never occurs with this biopic.

In Tupac’s 25 years of life before being gunned down in Las Vegas, he led a life of controversy and hope. Very much in the same aura as Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar, Tupac presented himself as not only a rapper but also a community leader. His lyrics expanded far beyond discussion of sex and drugs, and in every sense of the word he stood for his beliefs.

Tupac’s music often protested the corruption of society and the institutionalized way of thought most minorities struggle with, encouraging listeners to yearn for a brighter day. While watching Demetrius and Graham act in the movie, I couldn’t help but feel that every sentence was not only scripted but also forced. The resemblance Shipp shares with Tupac is uncanny, thus making the movie watchable, but the feeling of the two meshing as one hardly, if ever, occurs. Tupac’s characteristics are noted and used, but not in any way that reveals more than any ’90s hip-hop fan should already know.

Tucked away questions about the rapper’s personal life, including his murder, his fallout with Bad Boy Records, and his inner thoughts, are glossed over in a speedy delivery that feels borderline careless. Excitement is sure to fill any person walking into the theater, but by midway through, it’s an unspoken fact that All Eyez on Me is just like any other generic biopic.

But I guess that’s just the way it is.

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