Tupac’s durability as an icon has much to do with his complex character as it does his artistry and talent. While the first trailer for All Eyez On Me focused on building up to a reveal of Demetrius Shipp Jr. as Tupac Shakur, this longer trailer lingers on the pressures that shaped—and eventually ended—his complicated life.
The trailer opens on Tupac hyping up a crowd, explaining that he’s used to the pressure of being oppressed and held back by society in general, and the police in particular. Of course, standing up to the authorities was a family business. His mother, Afeni Shakur (Danai Gurira), warns Shakur to be wary of his gifts, fame, and visibility as a black leader. As with his double album that gives the biopic its name, All Eyez On Me references the dangerous nature of becoming a target.
But Shipp Jr.’s Tupac resists the label of black leader, fleeing to the superficially attractive, exploitative and treacherous territory of the West Coast hip-hop scene. Dangers are furtively revealed, such as when a lurking Suge Knight (Dominic L. Santana) lays down stacks of money. Similarly, blink and you’ll miss Jamal Woolard reprising his role as the Notorious B.I.G., Shakur’s rivalry with whom at least partially contributed to the murders of both men. And far from being above those negative influences, we see Shakur come to embody the very types of characters his mother was warning him against.
All Eyez On Me promises a mural of sex, drugs, violence, creativity, and moments of reflectiveness. And when he isn’t busy advancing the hedonist, misogynist agenda monetized by Death Row Records, scenes in the trailer remind us of his self-awareness and wisdom. Despite being a rebellious firebrand, Tupac perceived the long game, played by a resentful power dynamic committed to containing his success, influence, and identity.
While Tupac was murdered before he might have been able to focus his creative energies more directly on those forces, we can reflect on the impact he made in his brief life when All Eyez On Me opens in theaters November 11. [UPDATE: A representative from Morgan Creek just informed us that the film does not have a firm release date.]