Fanbase Press’ Geeky Love Letters: A Love Letter to Karl Urban

Love is in the air at Fanbase Press! In this magical month of romance and enchantment, the Fanbase Press Staff and Contributors decided to stop and smell the roses. Throughout the week of Valentine’s Day, a few members of the Fanbase Press crew will be sharing their personal love letters to the areas of geekdom they adore the most.

Dear Mr. Urban,

I’m probably like many of your fans: I first saw you as the anguished Eomer from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002, Peter Jackson) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003, Peter Jackson). With layers of hides on your back and long unkempt hair, your eyes conveyed the complexity of your character: sorrowful, yet brave. While you were not on the screen nearly enough, those scenes that you did have were pivotal. What an incredible opportunity to be part of a project that so defined fantasy for a new generation – it is no wonder you wanted to be part of it. I believe the experience may have set your course as a genre actor and I would say, also as a character actor, in part through the physical transformations you engage in for your craft.

Case in point, one: Munder. Ghost Ship (2002, Steve Beck) flew under the radar and it's one that I haven’t seen. From the clip I did see, you continued to rock the unkempt look… So, moving on to a better example, in the form of the character Vaako. A gothic dark knight, pushing for power, only to be denied the throne by Riddick in The Chronicles of Riddick (2004, David Twohy). Your intensity created a singular presence on the screen. You returned to the franchise twice more, lending your voice in the short Riddick: Blindsided (2013, Bonner Bellew) and in a cameo – will we see more of the brutish Vaako in the future? – role in Riddick (2013, David Twohy).

By the mid-2000s, your appearance became more contemporary and sleek as you became Kirill in The Bourne Supremacy (2004, Paul Greengrass). Your presence continued to be pervasive and problematic for the hero. As in past roles, the way you were able to express the intentions of you character through your eyes and mouth showed you were honing your abilities as actor.

Now, where others are critical, I thoroughly enjoyed Doom (2005, Andrzej Bartkowiak) in which you played John “Reaper” Grimm. Based on the seminal first-person shooter video game, this film brought the game to life and probably had a hand in bringing new energy and games to the franchise. Genre fits you well, most of the time, because while I wanted to like you as Ghost in Pathfinder (2007, Marcus Nispel). I just don’t think the film delivered and got lost.

But, that’s okay, because in 2009, if you were not known internationally at the time, flying by the seat of your pants in your first scene as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek certainly rocketed you to stardom. Kudos to the casting team who saw in you the new DeForest Kelley, with a modern update. Karl, you honor the past while injecting your vitality and passion – you embraced the role and as a result, fans cannot help but embrace you! Oh, and all those karaoke videos? Love them!

Seriously though, how fortunate you have been to be part of not one historically significant popular culture franchises, but two! After a retelling of Kahn’s story in Star Trek Into Darkness (2013, J.J. Abrams), it seemed that the franchise finally boldly went into new narrative territory with Star Trek Beyond (2016, Justin Lin). Your portrayal of Bones got a workout, especially in your scenes with Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) as he processes the death of his older self (Leonard Nimoy). You proved you were up to the task. Excellent work!

In 2014, you were one of the main leads in the thriller The Loft (Erik Van Looy) in which you played a talented architect, Vincent Stevens. Flirtatious, seeker of a good time, without thought to the friendships your sexual dalliances could destroy, Vincent was not a likable character. Seems a bit of an odd blip on your acting career, especially since you usually align to the lawful side of the house.

There are a handful of law enforcement roles in your filmography. For instance, you donned the standard issue governmental suit as William Cooper in Red (2010, Robert Schwentke) and more of a rebellious cop – still dark clothing – with Detective John Kennex with an uncanny valley complex against lifelike androids in the short-lived television series, Almost Human (2013-2014). I enjoyed the episodes I was able to catch streaming, until I could not stand the commercial interruptions and signal drops (sigh). While the writing was a bit formulaic, I thought you got to channel your character acting with a touch of that lighter side that we see in the myriad of Star Trek bloopers and karaoke videos. (Did I mention I love those?)

I admit I have not seen Priest (2011, Scott Stewart), Pete the Dragon (2016, David Lowery), your roles as Julius Caesar and Cupid in Xena: Warrior Princess (1996-2001), nor any of your New Zealand projects, such as your acclaimed work in The Price of Milk (2000, Harry Sinclair) and particularly Out of the Blue (2006, Robert Sarkies). The last two omissions I do need to rectify post haste; however, without a doubt, your coup de grâce is the “I am the Law” Judge Dredd in Dredd (2012, Peter Travis). Yes, I am a 2000 AD fan and specifically the Judge Dredd comic book series, so while I am biased, I feel I am qualified to state that your portrayal of Mega City One’s number one judge was spot on. From the perma-scowl to the imposing figure you cut, and the deep, gravelly voice, all while wearing a helmet that hides your eyes from the viewer for the entire film! People forget that a tremendous amount of emotion is conveyed through our eyes; hence, I think many missed just the depth of acting acumen you brought. I dare any naysayers to act half as well without a helmet!

Your career has been amazing thus far. Your commitment to your craft, physically and mentally, are understated and sometimes undervalued. From bringing to life characters from classic literature or gritty English comics or to giving new life to a beloved science-fiction fandom, thank you, Karl, for the actor’s road you have traveled to this point. I’m looking forward to your next projects, such as Thor: Ragnarok and Pacific Rim: Uprising, and drokk willing, a Dredd 2!

Yours truly,

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