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A couple of notes on The Terminal

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I've had the 2004 movie The Terminal out from Netflix for a long time; finally decided last night to watch it.

For the first half-hour, it held pretty much no interest for me. Tom Hanks plays an Eastern European guy, Viktor, who gets stuck in legal limbo in the JFK airport. The fact that it's a Spielberg movie tells you pretty much everything you need to know, and the plot was proceeding along predictable lines.

One of the subplots involves a black woman (the actress looked vaguely familiar, but at the time I couldn't place her), Dolores, who handles Viktor's repeated applications to enter the US, and a Latino guy, Enrique, who's secretly in love with her from afar. Enrique bribes Viktor with food to find out more about Dolores.

About a minute after I started wondering whether I should give up on the movie, Viktor asks Dolores if she likes films, and she says no, and he asks what she does like, and she says “Conventions.” And I thought, huh, obviously she wouldn't mean sf cons (because this is a mainstream movie); I wonder what she means.

And then the scene cuts to Viktor telling Enrique about the conversation:

Viktor: So she go to these conventions dressed as Yeoman Rand. Yeoman Rand.

Enrique: She's a Trekkie! She's a Trekkie!

Viktor: Favorite episode is “Doomsday Machine.”

I laughed out loud, and decided to stick around for the rest of the movie.

The rest of the movie turned out to be reasonably charming, though largely predictable. The above exchange was the high point, for me.

But this morning when I woke up, I realized two further things, unrelated to each other.

First: There's a surprisingly high percentage of people of color in the main cast. The prominent secondary characters are a white guy, a white woman, an Indian (South Asian) guy, the abovementioned Latino guy and black/Latina woman, and two black guys; there are also assorted tertiary characters of color. Of course, almost everyone becomes focused around helping the protagonist, who's a white man—but at least the character is a non-American who has trouble with English (although played by a white American actor, of course).

As usual with movies I've seen lately, I would've been happier if the female characters had been more numerous and more prominent. Which indirectly brings me to my second realization from this morning:

Dolores, the Trekkie character, was played by Zoë Saldana. Who, five years later, went on to play Uhura in the new Star Trek movie.

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