Tupac: Resurrection does a great job of showing us the warrior and the poet sides of Tupac Shakur, a rap darling of critics and controversy who was gunned down in Las Vegas in 1996.

Less nitty-gritty and more hippy-dippy is director Lauren Lazin’s framing device. The opening shots clearly are meant to evoke Shakur’s soul freely floating above Sin City. And his accompanying sound bite — “I got shot. I always felt I’d get shot” — isn’t contextually fair at all.

Shakur admits to some prophetic predictions of his death laterin the movie, his visions supplying the violence in his videos. But at that moment, he obviously was referring to a non-fatal 1994 shooting.

That said, it’s still a candid glimpse at his magnetic and captivating, but intensely conflicted, personality. Moments like that give the movie a beating heart and keep it from being a purely one-sided valentine. (The film, after all, was executive-produced by Shakur’s mother, Afeni.)

Endless films and VH-1 specials have been made on the L.A.P.D. conspiracies and rap-record label wars surrounding Shakur’s death. It’s thankfully not rehashed here, save for a scene where the also-dead Notorious B.I.G. and Sean “Nickname of the Day” Combs are made to look like liars about the 1994 shooting.

This film has a distinctly impressive look, using similar 3-D techniques to make photos come alive a la the Robert Evans documentary, The Kid Stays In the Picture. And through Shakur’s own revealing, intimate words, it captures an artist in the act of discovering himself, warts and all, and commenting openly on not always liking what he sees.

He admits that his balance of harshness and sensitivity came from not having a man around. (“A woman can’t calm a boy down like a man can,” he says simply.) Much talk is devoted to his sexual life, namely charges of sexual assault in 1994 for which he served jail time. And footage filmed not long after the 1994 shootings shows a radically different Shakur, his fire in front of the cameras replaced by wide-eyed fear.

This heady insight is balanced with plenty of lighter moments of equal interest, such as his lip-syncing to “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” Just plain strange is his appreciation of the support given to him during his jail term by Mickey Rourke and, of all people, Tony Danza. 

For both the hard-core and the uninitiated, Tupac: Resurrection gives a fine sense of why Shakur’s fans carry the torch for his legacy. It’s better from the perspective of that spirit on the streets, not up in the clouds.