Right now, we have a Wolverine void in the MCU. With the acquisition of 20th Century Fox by Disney, suddenly Marvel finds itself with the rights to both the X-Men and Wolverine. So, it’s only inevitable that this void will eventually be filled by whomever Marvel decides to cast. In my mind though, the only choice is The Boys’ Karl Urban. Here are some reasons why he should be the one to succeed Hugh Jackman as Wolverine as Marvel moves forward.
Karl Urban Has The Lovable, Loner Jerk Part Down
If there’s one thing an actor has to excel at when playing Wolverine, it’s convincing an audience to love an anti-social jerk. That’s a tough sell, but it’s something Hugh Jackman figured out how to do increasingly well as he played the character.
To a degree, Karl Urban has proven he can do this by playing Billy Butler on The Boys. Billy Butcher is the ultimate rough-around-the-edges loner who's willing to do anything to achieve his mission. But underneath that hard exterior is a guy who's hurting after he lost his wife. Karl Urban’s performance is almost uncanny in how it mirrors Wolverine’s character.
Wolverine is the ultimate loner in the X-Men. In contrast to Cyclops, he plays by his own rules and often pushes the moral envelope. It’s not enough to just have him growl and slash people. He needs to be a difficult wild-card for the X-Men, and he needs to be a constant thorn in their side.
In The Boys, Karl Urban relishes playing this kind of role. He’s tough, plays by his own rules and often does whatever he wants regardless of what his team says. This kind of attitude is a necessity for Wolverine. If someone wants to fill Hugh Jackman’s shoes, they’re going to have to grab the bull by the horns and find ways to make Wolverine an even bigger jerk than Hugh Jackman did.
The Boys Actor Can Pull Off The Look
Wolverine has a very specific look, and Hugh Jackman nigh-perfected it throughout his 17-year tenure. He’s typically grizzled, unkempt, bearded and looks like a lumberjack who cut down a few trees with his adamantium claws. Sure, there’s plenty of actors who could be transformed to look this way, but Karl Urban is one of the rare few where we’ve seen it already in action.
Again, Karl Urban showcased a lot of these features on The Boys. Billy Butcher looks so similar to Logan, all they’d have to do is give him some claws and he’d be ready to slice and dice to his heart’s content.
At the same time, there are definitely places they haven’t gone yet; specifically, Wolverine’s iconic yellow uniform. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine wore uniforms, of course, but they were typically black or nondescript. With Karl Urban, they could have a chance to dive into this look and embrace it. Whatever they choose, Karl Urban would fit the look perfectly.
Karl Urban's Funny In A Sardonic Sort Of Way
You can’t really have Wolverine without that dry, dark and sardonic sense of humor. It’s not as easy as it looks, especially since Wolverine often likes to make jokes about stabbing things. The role needs an actor who knows how to deliver the lines and can get the timing right. If you cast an actor who doesn’t have a funny bone in his body, then you’ve already lost the battle.
Hugh Jackman figured this out right off the bat and always did a great job delivering one-liners and bringing a little levity to a character who's rough around the edges.
Before The Boys, one of the only times we got to see Karl Urban’s comedy skills was in Star Trek. Bones has that grumpy, cynical humor that’s a constant thorn in Captain Kirk’s side, and Karl Urban was a wonder at it. The Boys helped him double-down on humor in increasingly dark ways. And to be clear, his style of humor, which is similar to Wolverine's, is less laugh-out-loud funny and more drier. It’s playful, but it has a serious edge to it.
Since the MCU is known for its humor, this is one element they can’t afford to screw up. If those in charge cast an actor who's too serious with no sense of humor, they may have lost the war. But, cast Karl Urban as Wolverine, and they can easily check this box off the list.
He Has Solid Acting Chops
Karl Urban’s been acting since he was a kid, and he started taking it more seriously after high school. His career really started taking off, though, after playing Eomer in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
From playing Bones in Star Trek to the stone-cold Judge Dredd, and now starring as Billy Butcher in The Boys, he’s tackled a variety of characters throughout his career and done a good job of bringing varying levels of nuance to the roles.
More importantly, with Billy Butcher, he’s found a way to reveal a softer side to the tough-as-nails character and gave him some real emotional depth, allowing us to empathize with his plight. This is key for a character like Wolverine, who’s often hard on the outside with a mushy middle. As a cherry on top, Karl Urban knows a thing or two about action movies, putting him in a sweet spot to take over the Wolverine role.
He Has Name Recognition, But Isn’t A Huge Star Yet
The problem with casting Wolverine is knowing whether you want to get a big star or an unknown. If you get too big of a star, you might struggle with other problems, like scheduling conflicts and overshadowing the rest of the cast. If you cast an unknown, you might put the actor in way over his head and set the poor guy up for failure, especially if he’s unable to get out from underneath Hugh Jackman’s large shadow.
Karl Urban is in a goldilocks zone in his career right now. He has name recognition from Star Trek and now The Boys, but he’s not a huge household name yet, like Keanu Reeves or Tom Hardy would be. In my mind, this is a win-win situation.
Karl Urban wouldn’t be wet behind the ears like an unknown, but he also wouldn’t be so well-known that he’d make it hard for lesser-known actors in the cast to stand out. He’d fit right in. Plus, he’s at that point in his career where he could easily headline his own standalone Wolverine movie without batting an eye. After all, he’s headlined other action movies before, like Dredd, and did a great job. An unknown might struggle with that.
Why Marvel Needs To Make Things Right With Karl Urban
I’ll be honest, I have a bit of a bone to pick with Marvel. The way they cast Karl Urban as Skurge in Thor: Ragnarok wasted his talents, and then just killing him off in the end was unacceptable. Karl Urban deserves better than what he got in that movie.
To make it right, Marvel Studios needs to cast Karl Urban to play Wolverine. Is that too much to ask? He’s given knockout performances in the past, but now with his role as Billy Butcher in The Boys, I feel like he’s proven that they made a mistake casting him as Skurge.
I know some might say it would be weird if they cast him as Wolverine after he played Skurge, but I don’t think so. For one, I doubt many people outside of the intimate fanbase will remember him playing Skurge anyway. His character was mostly pointless in Thor: Ragnarok. Plus, audiences have come around to accepting one actor playing multiple superhero characters. Chris Evans certainly got a pass for playing both The Human Torch and Captain America.
Casting Karl Urban to play Wolverine would be a sweet comeback for the actor in the MCU, and it would rectify the mistake of casting him as Skurge and then killing him off. But on top of that, it would also be the right choice for the role, making everything fit into place nicely.
Wolverine is a highly sought-after role. I’m sure there’s a line out the door with hundreds of actors desperate to nab it. Of those people, I bet there are some great candidates to wield the claws and the scowl. In my mind though, Karl Urban beats them all and might be the only one to get out of Hugh Jackman’s shadow and make the role his own.