Even though it's been four years since audiences embraced her stunning portrayal of Lt. Nyota Uhura in the blockbuster reboot of "Star Trek," actress Zoe Saldana still can't quite put into words how grateful she is to play once again the iconic role originated by Nichelle Nichols nearly 50 years ago.
"This was a role that I was so privileged to get in the first place, so to find out I was going to be doing it moving forward made me feel super ecstatic and very blessed," Saldana told me in a recent call from London. "One, because my mom is a 'Star Trek' fan, but also because I met Nichelle Nichols and got her blessing and some amazing pointers. Because of that, I was able to run wild with it."
Opening in IMAX 3D Wednesday and 2-D and 3-D theaters everywhere on Thursday, "Star Trek Into Darkness" brings back the entire crew of the Starship Enterprise, who face a threat with John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) -- a mysterious former member of Star Fleet who strikes at the very heart of the organization with a brutal terrorist attack that emotionally devastates Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine).
While "Star Trek Into Darkness" has everything and more of what you would expect of a "Star Trek" film with spectacular visuals, an engaging story and a thrilling atmosphere and pace, it also keeps intact the human emotions and relatability of the characters that has appealed to fans of the "Trek" universe for the past 47 years.
As for Uhura, "Star Trek Into Darkness" further explores the romantic relationship she formed with Spock (Zachary Quinto) in the 2009 film, and things are getting more complicated. Following an incident where Spock deliberately puts his own life in peril, Uhura feels he's placing his non-emotional Vulcan impulses above their relationship.
"While the film takes place in a future where we're working for this advanced military academy that's set in space, these are still two individuals who are in love who will act in familiar ways because it's primal," Saldana explained. "It doesn't matter whether we're in a film being chased by Klingons or we're graduating from high school or are two lawyers working in the same firm, there's always going to be a universal reaction of love when you're working in these human scenarios."
See the trailer for "Star Trek Into Darkness" below.
While the crew of the Starship Enterprise only started to become familiar with each other in the 2009 film, "Star Trek Into Darkness" focuses on, among many other things, the family that the crew has become. Saldana said forming the bond was a breeze because of the way the actors feel about each other off screen.
"What you're seeing on screen has to do with the chemistry that we have as actors and people," Saldana said. "There has been a genuine and positive friendship that has developed between all of since the beginning."
But to bring that bond to the next level, Saldana said, having a director like J.J. Abrams and screenwriters like Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Damon Lindelof was key.
"What you can expect from good writers and a good director is that they are accurate observers of life and human behavior," Saldana said. "So I'm really happy that they have the ability to incorporate that into their art."
With any luck, Saldana will get to play Uhura in a third "Star Trek" film, but a lot of stars will have to line up as the large core cast and filmmakers voyage into other commitments. Whenever the call comes, though, Saldana said she'll be ready to board the Enterprise once again.
"I would have to be fool to not want to be a part of it," Saldana enthused.
In the meantime, Saldana said she's ready for when James Cameron calls for her to play Ney'tiri for next "Avatar" film, and soon, she'll start production as the female lead on writer-director James Gunn's adaptation of Marvel Comics' "Guardians of the Galaxy."
Despite the sci-fi themes of "Avatar" and "Guardians," as well as her deep involvement of the "Star Trek" films, Saldana, 34, said it's partly happenstance that she keeps finding working in the same film genre.
"I do seem to have an affinity to stories that take place in space," Saldana said, laughing. "It's not that I purposefully look for those kinds of films and avoid other things, I just grew up with a mom who loved science fiction. I also read books like 'Dune' and 'The Neverending Story,' and watching films like 'Blade Runner' and 'The Terminator.' Because of that, I think I gravitate towards sci-fi unconsciously."
For "Guardians of the Galaxy," Saldana said she's excited about the possibilities of her character, the green-skinned alien assassin Gamora.
She believes at this point she'll go with full-body makeup for the role, but couldn't confirm it for sure. Other reports suggested computer generated imagery could possibly be an option.
"We're still in the beginnings of it all, so I'm as curious as you are as to know what kind of twists they're going to take with it," Saldana said.
Bring Me The News film critic Tim Lammers is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he reviews films on “KARE 11 News at 11” and WCCO Radio. As a feature writer, Tim has interviewed well over 1,000 major actors and filmmakers throughout his career and his work is syndicated nationwide.