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Shang-Chi director hired The Matrix cinematographer for similar 'grounded,' 'heightened' look

By Jacob Oller
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

Marvel’s cinematic universe has spanned a lot of genres over the course of its Endgame saga, from sci-fi epics to coming-of-age high school comedies. With the upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings on the horizon for the next phase of the MCU, it looks like the films will be branching out into the world of kung fu—or at least into a tone that should be familiar to anyone who's seen Neo astonished to know kung fu.

That’s right, The Matrix will be a touchstone for the upcoming film, according to director Destin Daniel Cretton. Speaking to Collider, Cretton explained that the decision to hire the Wachowski trilogy’s cinematographer Bill Pope for his first dip into the MCU was partially due to the similarities in tone between Shang-Chi and The Matrix.

“He has a really beautiful style, that’s both naturalistic and grounded,” Cretton said, “but also heightened, in the best way. And anybody who can shoot The Matrix is probably gonna do great with this one.” When asked about whether Shang-Chi will go for a similar tone to The Matrix, the director responded, “Yeah. I think particularly for our first Asian/Asian-American step into the MCU, that tone feels right.”

Simu Liu’s debut as the MCU’s first Asian-American lead will be action-packed and heavy on the martial arts. The Matrix films, shot by Pope in a highly innovative style, were influenced by Hong Kong action films and Japanese animation — though who knows if the Marvel movie will include anything comparable to bullet time. Nevertheless, the ideas and aesthetic behind The Matrix look to live on not only in Shang-Chi but in upcoming sequels of their own.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which also stars Awkwafina and Tony Leung, debuts on Feb. 12, 2021.