Tupac: Resurrection
Paramount // R // $29.99 // June 15, 2004
Review by Antoine Johnson | posted June 24, 2004
Highly Recommended
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Tupac Resurrection

The Movie
Tupac Shakur was without a doubt, one of the most controversial figures of his time. Tragically killed on September 13th, 1996 in Las Vegas, Tupac still lives on even in death. Many have said that he was a ghetto poet, while others have said that he was just another gangster rapper. The film allows Tupac to tell us who he was. "Tupac Resurrection" isn't the typical documentary, rather it is a film that is narrated entirely by Tupac Shakur himself.

The movie opens with a Tupac song "Staring at the World Through My Review" and the camera panning the city of Las Vegas. The camera pans the streets and suddenly the song ends and gunshots ring out. "Yes, I got shot", chillingly says the voice of Tupac. From this moment on, Tupac leads us through his life from early childhood to eventual death.

Director Lauren Lazin makes her feature film debut with this MTV produced film. Lazin has made over 40 documentaries for MTV and PBS. Say what you will about Tupac and his controversies, but Lazin's film shows us that he was no "typical" gangster rapper. Tupac was an educated young man the loved the arts. He spent time in Baltimore as a teenager learning how to hone his evident skills and talents. Soon poverty wouldn't escape him, as Tupac dropped out of school and hit the streets determined to make his way in life. One of the obvious influences on Tupac throughout his life was his relationship with his mother Afeni Shakur. His mother's experiences as a former Black Panther fuel his thoughts and eventually shape who he becomes. The film spends quite a bit of time focusing on Tupac's overall talent both behind the microphone and on the big screen.

The film chronicles Tupac's rapid rise to stardom, from his beginnings a roadie for rap group Digital Underground, to his last days with Deathrow records. Tupac is a times angry, remorseful and enlightening and seems genuinely sincere. Interestingly enough, Tupac was never arrested until after he became a well known rapper and Tupac's brushes with the law are well known and well documented in this movie.

Some of the footage of Tupac's jail interviews from his 1995 time in prison is remarkable. Here is we see him at his rawest, most open moments. The movie is filled with pictures, old video and old interviews all inner-cut with Tupac's voice. We truly see how this man lived his life.

Perhaps the average fan would best know Tupac through his very public beef with Christopher Wallace a.k.a. "The Notorious B.I.G.". The East Coast vs. West Coast theme does come up during the later parts of the movie and it's interesting to hear Tupac's affection and disdain for Wallace all at the same time. The movie does a service by not focusing on this, rather focusing on the things that made Tupac a larger than life figure. He comes across as a man that you either love or hate, and makes no apologies for living the way he lived.

Tupac's influence on the Hip Hop culture is undeniable. Whether he is a poet, a gangster rapper or a political martyr is debatable. He was probably the most influential rapper ever this is evident by his 4 highly successful posthumous CD releases. His influence in the rap world is still there check out Eminem or 50 Cent. The film does a great job of showing us the man, with all of his flaws and allows the viewer to ultimately form their onion on his life and death.

How Does It Look? - The movie is presented in an anamorphic 2:35 format. Because most of the film includes stills and older video footage, the film doesn't have a very crisp look to it. This isn't an issue however, because you expect it based on the source material. The opening Vegas sequence is crystal clear without any visible issues and looks great.

How Does It Sound? - This movie is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital sound. The film is mostly dialogue driven, without much use from the surrounds. There are also times when Tupac's voice becomes hard to hear again another by product of the source material. The fronts are engaged often as music is played throughout the movie. Once again though, because this is a documentary, it's not a deal breaker.

Special Features:

  • Audio Commentary with Tupac's Mom Afeni Shakur, Director Lauren Lazin and Surprise Guests - The surprise guest's on this commentary also permeate the extras. We hear the voices of not only Afeni Shakur and Lauren Lazin, as well as Jada Pinkett Smith, Jasmine Guy, Snoop Dogg and a host of others. The neat thing about this commentary is the fact that we hear different voices throughout the commentary. Lazin is especially insightful on how she was able to get many of the older pictures and video footage.
  • Deleted Scenes Four deleted scenes, three of which don't add anything to the film. The scene entitled "On Children", is actually an extended scene that does make the final cut. I'm not sure why this scene was trimmed, because you do get some insight into Tupac's relationship with the strong women in his life (mother, sister, etc.).
  • Interviews - Two interviews, the first being an un-aired 8 minute MTV video during a studio recording of a Christmas benefit single. This is Tupac's first interview as a solo artist. The second interview is another MTV interview, this one from the 1996 Video Music Awards the last interview Tupac would give, as he was shot 3 days later. This interview lasts only a few minutes. Parts of this interview end up making the film.
  • Malcolm X Dinner Speech - In 1992, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement invited Tupac to speak at its banquet in Atlanta. This speech enforces the militant revolutionary side of Tupac. This is one of Tupac's first recorded speeches. The speech lasts a little over 6 minutes. The A/V quality if very poor but expected based on the source.
  • Deposition - In 1995, Tupac was sued by the estate of slain Texas State trooper. The trooper's family claimed Tupac's music incited police shootings. The deposition is a 6 minute clip that was taped will Tupac was jailed at the Clinton Correctional Facility in New York. The deposition is essentially another interview without all of the glamour and glitz. Two years later, a federal court ruled in Tupac's favor, citing his constitutional right to free expression. By the time of the ruling, Tupac had already been shot and killed.
  • About the "Resurrection" Soundtrack - Interview clips with rap stars Eminem and 50 Cent on how some the songs were created for the soundtrack, including the hit song "Runnin'" featuring posthumously Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G.
  • Remembering Tupac - Some introspective looks at Tupac by some of his supporters and family members including actress Jada Pinkett Smith, singer Mary J. Blige and rappers Snoop Dogg, Treach and 50 Cent. Smith's recollections are especially touching, especially considering her long friendship with Tupac. Total run time, including a "Were Where You?" feature run about 17 minutes.
  • Mutulu Shakur Interview - A little under 3 minute interview with Mutulu Shakur, a former member of the Black Liberation Army and Tupac's stepfather. The interview occurs in prison, where Mutulu Shakur is currently serving 60 years for conspiracy to commit bank robbery.
  • Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts - Brief piece on a Tupac dream that eventually came true his performing arts center.
  • Trailers - Include an anamorphic trailer of "Tupac Resurrection" and a brief TV spot. There are also trailers for "Sky Captain", "Spongebob the Movie", "The Fighting Temptations", "Timeline" and "Paycheck". The trailers are anamorphic, but lack 5.1 sound.
  • Bootleg This! - A PSA against piracy featuring Tupac's lawyers and his mother.

Final Thoughts: - Going into this review I was already a Tupac fan. This film made his life seem less tragic and you get the feeling that he lived his life with very few regrets. Lauren Lazin does a great job of capturing the important aspects of his life without pushing the viewer into feeling a certain way. We get to see Tupac at his best and at his worse and he remains consistent throughout. Tupac felt like it was his mission to leave a legacy and he has succeeded with that goal. If you're not a fan of Tupac, I would recommend that you pick this up and learn abut his life and why he was who he was. If you are a fan, this is a no-brainer for your collection. Overall this movie is well-done and though provoking and is highly recommend.

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