Tupac Shakur narrates his own life (almost, it would seem, from beyond the grave), taking usfrom his birth (and even before — he discusses his gestation inside his imprisoned activistmother) to his childhood, and then through the ups and downs (emotional, legal and otherwise)of his career. Personal beliefs, politics, and the whole nine yards are laid out for us.
The editing is very clever, and one notes this particularly in the opening. Immediately afterthe sound o… shots at a fateful street intersection, we see aerial photography of sand dunes andclouds in the sky as Tupac’s voice-over beings with “I got shot.” Neat trick, landing a post-mortem interview. Then a tone is set as the film’s title appears over the clouds and blue sky inthe kind of font usually reserved for biblical epics. Are we in for an auto-hagiography? Not quite,but close. The darker side of Shakur’s life is not glossed over, though the emphasis is certainlyon the positive, and his rationalizations are rather self-serving. The whole “Thug Life” code-of-the-street business is pure rubbish derived from a Hollywood version of the Mafia. Aninteresting, if dubious, piece.
The usual criteria for judging a 5.1 track (or a 2.0, also included) don’t really apply here, asthere are really only two sounds: music and voice-over. Both are clear and well-defined (thoughtthe quality of the voice-over depends somewhat on the source of the original recording). Themusic has an solid surround mix. The overall volume level could be stronger.
The anamorphic widescreen transfer is completely the mercy of the source materials, and thepicture quality varies accordingly. The few bits of new material (i.e. the aerial shots and whatnot)are usually pretty good, with fine blacks, though some of those insufferably cheesy heavenlycloud shots are badly pixellated.
The audio commentary is very interesting, and kicks the value of the whole project up a fewnotches. All the participants are recorded separately. Director Lauren Lazin takes the lead, andprovides many much-needed explanations (such as where the “I got shot” narration comes from).Afeni Shakur, Tupac’s mother and the exec producer, gets her two cents in, as do other familyand friends, and such celebs as Snoop Dogg and Jada Pinkett Smith. The latter’s comments areextremely welcome and strategically placed, as she takes vigorous issue with Tupac’sdisingenuous “I love women” speech.
That commentary alone might have been enough, but the disc is loaded with other extras.There are four deleted scenes, two vintage interiews (from ‘96 and ‘92, the latter never beforeseen), Tupac’s ‘92 speech at a Malcolm X dinner, his deposition for the court when he was beingsued over the supposed murder-inspiring lyrics to his songs, interviews with Eminem and 50Cent about the film’s soundtrack, and videos for “Trapped” and “Brenda’s Got a Baby.” Andthere’s more. “Remembering Tupac” is a collection of some 16 interviews with family, friends,and celebrities. Mutulu Sharkur, Tupac’s radical stepfather, is interviewed in prison. Thehagiography gets a real kick start withe a short feature on the projected Tupac Amaru ShakurCenter for the Arts (and other such endeavours). Finally, beyond the theatrical trailer and the TVspot, there’s a little thing called “Bootleg This!” This isn’t a special feature – it’s a threat. Can’tsay as how a DVD has every brandished the menace of legal action before my face before. Themenu’s main screen and intro are animated and scored.
I can’t help but be a bit suspicious of the whole milk-the-dead-star aura around this. But theresult is undeniably fascinating.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- 4 Deleted Scenes
- Exclusive Interviews
- 1992 Speech at Malcolm X Dinner
- Eminem and 50 Cent on the Soundtrack
- 2 Music Videos
- “Tupac Amaru Shakur Enter for the Arts” Featurette
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spot
- “Bootleg This!” Warning