Tupac: Resurrection

Nothing begets a legend quite like an early, dramatic death. Rapper Tupac Shakur was well on his way to artistic immortality when he was gunned down in 1996, but his unsolved murder and the mysterious circumstances surrounding it solidified his position as hip-hop's preeminent icon. The thriving 2Pac industry didn't slow down following his death, and it continues to crank out an endless, profitable array of books, DVDs, CDs, and documentaries. All of which poses a major challenge for anyone making a documentary on rap's Elvis: How do you make a story that's been sold and told so many times by so many people? Tupac: Resurrection's simple-but-effective answer is to let Shakur tell his own story, through interviews, videos, and rare footage. Resurrection doesn't pretend to be objective, and the film derives much of its power from the way it invites audiences to look at the rapper's life and times through his own soulful, animated eyes. It doesn't always succeed, and there are times when it feels terribly strained, as when Diff'rent Strokes becomes a major motif in Shakur's childhood, a sorry development that seems attributable largely to the dearth of footage of the subject during his poverty-stricken prepubescent years. Resurrection is at its freshest when documenting Shakur's late teens, when he teetered on the brink of stardom and hadn't yet become a thug icon. It helps that director Lauren Lazin and MTV Films have unearthed some great footage of Shakur as a goofy teen listening to "Parents Just Don't Understand" and clowning around with Digital Underground. The grand themes and major developments of Shakur's life–the Black Panther lineage, the violent clash between his sensitive and aggressive tendencies, his Faustian bargain with Suge Knight–have been explored at length in other documentaries, books, articles, and television specials, so Resurrection is most revelatory when it delves into his personal quirks. Everyone knows about Shakur's run-ins with the law and moral watchdogs, but who knew that he loved Shakespeare, thought Tony Danza was "the bomb," and admired Don McLean? As the film moves toward its inevitable conclusion, it begins to overlap considerably with other accounts of the rapper's last days. Shakur was so ubiquitous in the years leading to his death that much of Resurrection's latter-day footage will already be familiar to fans. But though the world doesn't necessarily need another Shakur documentary, this one at least finds a novel way to tell the fascinating, oft-told tale of a rapper whose influence shows no sign of abating.

Filed Under: Film

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