Her name might not be the first one you think of when you muse on the most legendary heroines in science fiction. Carrie Fisher, Sigourney Weaver, Fay Wray, Nichelle Nicols, Linda Hamilton, Milla Jovovich, Carrie-Anne Moss… all of them have had glorious career statements in science fiction films, though few of those actresses have had a prolonged presence in the genre, and fewer still have been able to ride science fiction success through multiple franchises.
Zoe Saldana’s career is skyrocketing, and thinking about it, there are few other actors who can boast the franchise-hopping resume that she can.
Sigourney Weaver might come the closest. With appearances in four separate Alien films, two Ghostbuster films, Avatar and its scheduled three sequels, Weaver has certainly had an iron grip on the science fiction heroine scepter for the last three and a half decades.
However, Saldana is catching up fast, and she’s only 36 years-old.
Zoe’s first genre film was a big one. In 2003, she snatched up the role of Anamaria in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Acting alongside such cinematic veterans as Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush and Keira Knightly, Saldana held her own playing one of Captain Jack Sparrow’s shipmates, and she earned the respect of her fellow actors.
By the time Zoe stepped off the deck of the Black Pearl and onto the bridge of the Starship Enterprise six years later, Saldana was a film veteran herself with another thirteen film credits under her belt. By the time she ended up on JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot set, she’d worked with the likes of Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Jerry Bruckheimer, Dennis Quaid, Forest Whitaker, Ashton Kutcher, Bill Paxton, Nick Cannon, Britney Spears and Kirsten Dunst.
According to IMDB, Zoe Saldana has consistently earned the respect of all her co-workers. They say “the sky is the limit for this young star who has incredible range, intense concentration, and a steely determination to be involved with projects that challenge her professionally with wide-ranging subject matters and characters. “
Saldana hit the perfect note as the intensely capable and fiercely intelligent Lt. Uhura. No matter what anyone thinks of the Star Trek reboot – lens flare anyone? – Saldana’s performance pleased critics and fanboys alike. Uhura’s relationship with Spock could have been immensely awkward, however, the strength of the performance by Zoe as Uhura makes you believe she’s a strong enough woman to stand toe to toe with the half-vulcan on any logical point he cares to debate.
The Star Trek sequel – Star Trek: Into Darkness – expanded on Uhura and Spock’s relationship, and again, the strong acting by Saldana helped it to work.
JJ Abrams’ first Star Trek reboot film was released in May of 2009.
Seven months later, Zoe would star in another huge genre film: Avatar.
Playing the blue-skinned Neytiri, Saldana jumped head first into James Cameron’s fantasy epic. Making use of cutting edge motion capture CGI, Cameron transported audiences via amazing 3D to Pandora. Though unrecognizable in the role of Neytiri, Saldana made an impact with her performance – so much so that she’s coming back in the 2016 sequel, as well as the following two installments in 2017 and 2018.
Enter Guardians of the Galaxy. Call it Marvel’s gamble, call it a cinematic cartoon, call it farfetched, call it a huge success. The studio’s attempt to bring the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the stars paid off to the tune of $600 million worldwide to date, and Zoe Saldana had a ringside seat as Gamora, “soldier, assassin, wanted on over a dozen counts of murder.” These days, getting attached to a Marvel movie usually means you’ve got more films and more paydays to come – if you want them.
And Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t just a Marvel film, it was a Marvel “tent pole” film, as The Avengers was. While The Avengers sequels and its spinoffs will primarily keep its heroes on and around Earth, Guardians of the Galaxy’s sequels and its spinoffs will pull audiences into intergalactic conflicts where literally anything can happen. Look for Saldana in the next two Guardians of the Galaxy films, as well as in any confrontations and/or alliances the Guardians may have with the Avengers… can you say, Avengers 3? It’s also not out of the realm of possibility to see the Guardians of the Galaxy mixed up in The Inhumans, which will reportedly be Marvel’s next “tentpole” film.
According to Box Office Mojo, Guardians of the Galaxy has made $600 million to date. Avatar has made $2.7 billion. The first two Star Trek films made $852 million combined. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl made $654 million. That puts the total that Zoe Saldana’s genre films have made at… well, a lot of money.
We don’t often praise actors and especially actresses often enough for not making the news; we don’t praise them often enough for showing up on time and doing exceptionally great work in the roles they take on – preferring instead to shine the spotlight on actors and actresses who have posed for a police mug-shot.
Zoe Saldana firmly falls into the category of an actress who should be highly praised for her great work. The reigning science fiction queen torch is being passed to Saldana, and there’s no telling just how bright it will burn.
Images via Disney, Marvel, sfnewz and 1900×1200