BY RICK BENTLEY
THE FRESNO BEE/TNS
LOS ANGELES – Zoe Saldana, who reprises her role as Gamora in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” says it’s great that there are more strong roles for women in film.
“Women are going to go to these movies because they are going to find themselves in these characters whether it be Nebula or Mantis or Gamora. They are going to have options of strong women to chose from,” Saldana says. “These are very diverse characters with very distinct personalities that are so special and charming.”
The strong women of “Vol. 2” start with Saldana who gets to show several different strengths as Gamora. She can be ferociously motherly or throw a pitch that can loosen teeth (or whatever chomping items an alien might use).
Then there is Karen Gillan’s Nebula who was emotionally limited in the first film but this time gets to show both her brutally bad side while also getting to reveal a more sensitive element through issues of sibling rivalry. And Mantis, the newest member of the superhero gang as played by Pom Klementieff, has an undeniable mental and emotional strength.
Strength, personal issues
Saldana was attracted to Gamora in the “Guardians” franchise because of the power of the role and the elements of family. To accept a role, she has to be moved by the script and be part of the kind of production she would pay to go see.
“There are definite issues between the sisters because Gamora almost had to kill her sister to survive. But this also addresses the problems she had with her father and the problems Quill has with his dad,” Saldana says. “I have a really soft spot for fathers.”
“Guardians” is not the only time Saldana has been attracted to a character with both strength and personal issues. Both her work as Neytiri in “Avatar” and Uhura in the “Star Trek” franchise have given her similar roles to play.
Saldana also saw a strength in Gamora that some might overlook.
At first glance, Gamora seems like the biggest buzzkill on the planet with her forecasts of doom and ability to kill a joke. That’s not a negative to Saldana as she sees Gamora as being very necessary for all of the other characters to bounce off of and having the strength to be the focus of the interweaving stories.
These elements will, she says, convey more depth to her character. This time Gamora is more complicated than being one of the top assassins in the universe.
Saldana says the idea comes across that in her heart, Gamora really doesn’t like violence. Gamora just keeps getting pushed into violent acts either to save the universe again or to deal with Nebula.
Gillan says, “In the first movie Nebula was along the lines of just being an evil villain. I had an issue with my sister but we really didn’t explore that. In the second movie, we really get into that.
“So, she remains a very strong character but she begins to evolve and you get to see another side of her. What I liked about Nebula is her relationship with her sister and this jealous sibling rivalry she possessed.”
Gillan started thinking about her role in those elements hours before she went to work. During the four hours it takes to transform her into the colorful colored Nebula, she listened to heavy metal music to get into the right frame of mind.
Gillan, who was best known for playing Amy Pond on “Doctor Who” before “Guardians” came around, is happy the film is loaded with so many strong female characters.
The other aspect of the film she likes is that “Guardians” deals heavily with family issues that Gillan sees as conduits for all ages to like the movie.
She stresses that the film still has plenty of action and big explosions. Often, Nebula is either in the middle of those scenes or at least has been a catalyst.
“But, this movie also has cool messages about strong women and family along with all the other cool stuff,” Gillan says.
Helping present those cool messages is the new alien on the block in Mantis who has empathic abilities. Because Mantis has been raised on a planet with only limited contact to the outside world, Mantis can calm a beast with her mind but struggles with her own social skills.
Klementieff plays Mantis with a strength coming from deep inside.
“Her strength is that she is resilient,” Klemtieff says. “It’s interesting to show strength in a very different way especially in the Marvel movies where you often see women who are badass, strong and confident.
“Mantis is more awkward and special in her own world. She’s innocent and wide-eyed. It is interesting to get to show that.”
She expected Mantis to be more like other strong women in the Marvel Comics universe and spent time training in martial arts to be ready for any big fight scenes. It wasn’t until she saw the final script that Klementieff realized Mantis was more of a thinker than fighter. That still didn’t stop the actress from pitching ideas where Mantis could throw a few more punches.
There’s little room to argue that the fighting prowess of Gamora and Nebula are strong traits.
Klementieff thinks the ability Mantis has are both a powerful thing to have and also a bit of a curse.
But, she calls that duality a reason Mantis belongs among the ranks of the diverse, strong women in “Guardians.”