By Thomas Wheeler

THOR: THE DARK WORLD, sequel to the Thor movie, and moderate sequel to the Avengers movie, quickly become the #1 movie in the world during the 2013 season.

Personally, I was extremely impressed with this movie. The set designs, the special effects, the story, were all distinctly superior to the first Thor film in my opinion. Not that I disliked the first movie. In fact I enjoyed it. It's just that I liked this movie that much better.

The action figures for the movie were unfortunately rather difficult to come by. For various reasons, two of the major retailers opted out of Thor action figures, with one of the retailers carrying only a minimal supply of non-action-figure Thor products. I found this not only unfortunate, but deeply troubling as far as the future is concerned. There's no shortage of Marvel-based movies in the works, most of which are likely to have action figure lines attached to them. One would hope that they will turn up in reasonable supply. I wish I could say that with some certainty at this time.

Action figures from Thor: The Dark World seem to be, at least at the usual retail outlets, the exclusive purview of Toys "R" Us. There are a number of online retailers carrying them, as well.

Certain other retailers may want to rethink their position before a certain band of mutants and a patriotic shield-slinger are back in the theaters. At least Toys "R" Us has been getting additional shipments of this initial assortment of figures.

This review will take a look at the figure of one of the prominent villains in the movie, by the name of KURSE. Technically, there are other villains in the movie. Unfortunately, there's no figure of the main adversary, Malekith, in this assortment, and while there is a figure of Loki, his status as a "villain" in this film is open to some interpretation.

Let's have a more in-depth look at this superb sequel movie, and then have a look at the character of Kurse, who in fact got his start in the comic books, not this movie, and then we'll review the figure.

Thor: The Dark World was produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. It is the second Thor film following 2011's Thor and the eighth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film was directed by Alan Taylor, with a screenplay by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and features Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Jaimie Alexander, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins reprising their roles from the first, with newcomers Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Zachary Levi and Clive Russell joining the cast.

Development of Thor: The Dark World began in April 2011, when producer Kevin Feige announced plans for a sequel to follow the crossover film The Avengers. In July 2011, Kenneth Branagh, the director of Thor, withdrew from the project. Brian Kirk and Patty Jenkins were considered to direct the film before Taylor was hired in January 2012. The supporting cast filled out in August 2012, with the hiring of Eccleston, Dennings and Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Principal photography began in September 2012 in Surrey, England with filming continuing in Iceland and London, before wrapping up in December 2012.

Thor: The Dark World premiered at the Odeon Leicester Square in London on October 22, 2013. It was released internationally on October 30, 2013, and on November 8, 2013, in the United States. The film is both critically and commercially successful, surpassing the worldwide gross of its predecessor.

In the movie, eons ago, Bor, the father of Odin, clashes with the Dark Elf Malekith, who seeks to destroy the universe using a weapon known as the Aether. After conquering Malekith's forces, including enhanced warriors called the Kursed, on their home world of Svartalfheim, Bor safeguards the Aether within a stone column. Unbeknownst to Bor, Malekith, his lieutenant Algrim, and a handful of Dark Elves escape into suspended animation.

In present-day Asgard, Loki stands imprisoned for his war crimes on Earth during the events of the Avengers movie. Meanwhile, Thor, alongside warriors Fandral, Volstagg and Sif, repel marauders on Vanaheim, home of their comrade Hogun; it is the final battle in a war to pacify the Nine Realms following the reconstruction of Bifröst, the "Rainbow Bridge" between realms, which had been destroyed two years earlier.

In London, astrophysicist Dr. Jane Foster's intern, Darcy Lewis, now with her own intern, Ian, takes Jane to an abandoned factory where objects have begun to disobey the laws of physics and disappear into thin air. Separating from the group, Jane is teleported to another world, where she is infected by the Aether.

The Asgardians learn that the Convergence, a rare alignment of the Nine Realms, is imminent. As the event approaches, portals linking the worlds appear at random. Heimdall alerts Thor of Jane's recent disappearance, leading Thor to search for her. When she inadvertently releases an unearthly force, he takes her to Asgard. There, Asgardian healers say they do not know how to treat her. Odin, recognizing the Aether, warns Jane's infection will kill her given enough time, and that the Aether's return heralds a catastrophic prophecy.

Malekith, awakened by the Aether's release, turns Algrim into a Kursed and attacks Asgard. During the battle, Malekith and Algrim search for Jane, knowing she contains the Aether. When they fail to capture her, they escape, killing Thor's mother, Frigga.

Despite Odin's orders not to leave Asgard, Thor reluctantly teams up with Loki, who knows of a secret portal to Malekith's world, where they will use Jane to lure and confront Malekith, away from Asgard. In return, Thor promises Loki that he can have his revenge on Malekith for killing their mother. With Volstagg and Sif stalling Asgardian soldiers and Fandral assisting their escape, Thor and Loki commandeer a Dark Elf spaceship and escape to Svartalfheim with Jane.

On Svartalfheim, Loki tricks Malekith into drawing the Aether out of Jane. However, Thor's attempt to destroy the substance fails, and the Aether-empowered Malekith leaves with his ship as Loki appears to be fatally wounded while killing Algrim. Thor, cradling Loki in his arms, promises to tell their father of his sacrifice.

Following Loki's apparent death, Thor and Jane discover another portal in a nearby cave and reunite in London with Jane's mentor Dr. Erik Selvig — who was briefly institutionalized due to the mental trauma he suffered during Loki's attack on Earth — as well as with Darcy and Ian. They learn that Malekith plans to unleash the Aether to destroy the universe, and that he will do this in Greenwich, the center of the Convergence. Thor battles Malekith, but a portal separates them, leaving Malekith unopposed. Thor comes back in time to help his mortal comrades use their scientific equipment to transport Malekith to Svartalfheim, where he is killed before he can destroy the universe.

Thor returns to Asgard, where he declines Odin's offer to take the throne and tells Odin of Loki's sacrifice. As he leaves, Odin's form transforms to that of a grinning Loki -- which leaves one heck of a piece of plotline to be resolved in the next movie.

In a mid-credits scene, Volstagg and Sif visit the Collector and entrust the Aether to his care, commenting that, with the Tesseract already in Asgard, having two Infinity Stones so close together would be dangerous. As they leave, the Collector remarks, "One down, five to go." This was an astounding scene which must have had a rather considerable budget of its own. It should be considered a follow-up to the brief appearance of Thanos during the end credits of the Avengers movie, but bringing in the Collector in a totally unrelated scene like this is likely to leave some people unfamiliar with the character and the concept behind the Infinity Stones -- known as the Infinity Gems in the comics -- wondering what that was all about.

Disney also announced plans to promote the film with an attraction at Disneyland. The attraction is called "Treasures of Asgard", and is located next to the Stark Industries exhibit inside Innoventions in Tomorrowland. It opened on November 1, 2013 and features displays of Asgardian relics and transports guests to Odin's throne room, where they are greeted by Thor. Would that I could be there.

As of November 17, 2013, Thor: The Dark World has earned $145,097,130 in North America and $335,100,000 in other countries for a worldwide total of $480,200,000 worldwide. It surpassed its predecessor within 19 days of release. Thor: The Dark World is the third highest-grossing film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

As for Kurse, he first appeared as the Dark Elf Algrim the Strong in Thor #347 (Sep. 1984), and was transformed into Kurse in Secret Wars II #4 (Oct. 1985) and was created by Walter Simonson.

Kurse was originally the most powerful of a race of Dark Elves, and was known as Algrim the Strong. He is coerced by the Dark Elf ruler Malekith the Accursed to fight Thor.

Malekith, however, betrays Algrim while he is fighting Thor, and in a bid to destroy the thunder god, orders that a pitfall beneath the two be opened. Thor saves himself with his mystical hammer Mjolnir, while Algrim falls into lava. Algrim's enchanted armor saves his life, but he is still critically injured and develops amnesia from the shock.

Algrim is completely amnesic, except for his obsessive desire to gain revenge upon Thor. Algrim is later healed by the cosmic entity the Beyonder, who transforms him into the much more powerful being called Kurse, who is twice as strong as Thor. The Beyonder transports Kurse to Earth to battle Thor. However, Kurse mistakes Thor's ally Beta Ray Bill for Thor and battles him. Kurse then battles the juvenile superhero team, Power Pack. Sure -- go pick on a team of little kids.

Thor then confronts Kurse, having donned his magical belt of strength to double his own strength. The Beyonder, however, doubles Kurse's strength yet again to counter this. Despite overpowering Thor, Kurse is made to realize that Malekith, not Thor, is to blame for his suffering. The Beyonder then transports Kurse to Hel at Thor's suggestion, to frustrate Hela, the goddess of death.

Kurse later kills Malekith, who had been masquerading as Balder the Brave, and after repenting, is granted citizenship among the Asgardians. Designated as the guardian of the children of Asgard after he helped protect Volstagg's daughter and adopted sons during a plague, he loyally serves Asgard until the time of Ragnarok, when all Asgardians, with the exception of Thor, apparently perish.

Kurse possesses a number of superhuman attributes as a result of his natural dark elf physiology and mystical augmentation. Kurse's main advantage against foes is his strength. While initially a close match for Thor, his strength was first increased to twice, and then four times, that of Thor.

Courtesy of enchanted armor that was fused to his skin by the Beyonder, Kurse is now almost totally invulnerable, but like all Dark Elves is vulnerable to the element iron. Kurse also has the ability to sense and track his opponents over distances as great as continents and can see through illusions and disguises. His armor is a living, sentient, and enchanted armor that allows Kurse to see everything around him.

About the only common points in the character's origin between the comic and movie version of the character is his initial alliance with Malekith, and that he started out as Algrim, later transformed into Kurse.

Algrim appears in Thor: The Dark World, portrayed by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. In the film, the Kursed are an army of Dark Elf warriors who enhance their bodies with great risk. Being the last of his kind to undergo the transformation, Algrim became Kurse to aid Malekith during their initial invasion of Asgard. Loki later killed him.

So, how's the figure? Well, let's call him appropriately ugly. He's also very impressive and exceptionally well detailed.

I've noticed this about the Thor figures -- those few that I've seen -- is that the sculpted detail is really substantial on this line. Hasbro should be duly pleased with their sculptors.

While Kurse doesn't particularly resemble his comic book counterpart, he definitely looks like a very evil threat to any Asgardian that crosses his path.

For starters, the figure is very large, for the scale. Thor isn't exactly short, and stands 4-1/2" in what is arguably a 4" scale line. Kurse is 4-3/4", which doesn't sound like much, but at this scale, it's noticeable.

Kurse is almost uniformly a dark gray, and the pattern to his body, or costume, or whatever you want to call it, is that of a very tough, leather-like hide, like somewhere between an elephant and a rhinoceros.

It's not hard to make this comparison given the appearance of his head. Although largely humanoid, Kurse's head has very deepset eyes, a toothy frown, and six curved horns pointing forward from the back of his head, and something rather akin to tusks emerging from the sides of his head, pointing forward and curving up.

Kurse has a very muscular physique. He's not Hulk big, but he's big, and clearly is a physical threat to any Asgardian. I'm honestly not sure if this hide-like body of his is supposed to be his body or a costume, but let's assume the former, and consider some of the accouterments that have been added to the basic body.

Most of the ornamentation takes the form of spikes and horns. One almost wonders if the designers were inspired just a bit by an entirely different comics character -- Doomsday, the malevolent being who managed to kill Superman -- at least for a while -- in the early 1990's.

Encircling Kurse's shoulders like some sort of collar is a horseshoe-shaped horn that tapers partway down the chest, with a slight split at the tips. There's a pair of spikes coming out of his left shoulder blade on his back, one larger than the other. The sides of his shoulders have armored plating with four distinct spikes on each.

Kurse is wearing armored gauntlets around his lower arms, and the sculpted detail is excellent, showing wrappings holding it in place. Several small spikes emerge from each.

The hands are rather menacing looking, with spiked fingers. The left hand is especially impressive, with all five fingers spread out, but the clawed tips are still somewhat clenched.

Kurse is wearing something of a loincloth around his waist, which appears to be made out of the same rough hide-like material as the rest of him. There's a belt around the waist, and a strap running partway up the body. This sort of makes me think that Kurse's physical appearance is at least part costume, since the strap sort of disappears at chest level.

The belt has three small objects attached to it, which I believe to be a sort of grenade that the Dark Elves were seen using in the movie. Kurse also has an additional one of these as a separate accessory. It's tiny enough that I recommend storing it in a Ziploc bag.

Kurse's legs are relatively unremarkable, except insofar as following the same tough, hide-like pattern of the rest of the figure. There are small spikes protruding from the outsides of the ankles.

Although the figure is molded entirely in dark gray, and there's not a lot of color to him, Kurse does have some painted detail. The tips of some of the spikes, as well as the claws on his hands, are painted in a paler shade of gray, as if they are some sort of dark-colored bone.

Kurse's deepset eyes are painted in a glossy black, and his teeth are painted white. The little grenades at his belt have been given a glossy finish, and there are some patches of dark red on his body, including on his forehead, where there are also some light gray markings on the forehead and face, like some sort of tattoo or tribal marking.

Let's discuss articulation. Let's really discuss articulation. Too many action figures in recent times have had their articulation severely restricted, to about five points -- head, arms, and legs. This includes the figures from a certain Armored Avenger's third cinematic appearance.

Kurse has a much more extensive range of articulation. He is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, including a swivel, legs, upper leg swivel, and knees, including a swivel. Now, that's more like it!

So, what's my final word? My one and only complaint about this figure is its limited availability. I'm also a little disappointed that Malekith is not available in the initial assortment. And I wish I was optimistic about a second series that might include him, but as of this writing, I simply don't know. We'll just have to hope, and see.

But I certainly have no complaints about Kurse. This is an outstanding action figure. He is astoundingly well-detailed -- way, way above average. You can give yourself eyestrain studying all the complex detail on this figure. Paint applications, although limited, are very precise and neatly done. Articulation is excellent.

If you're a Thor fan, especially if you enjoyed the recent movie THOR: THE DARK WORLD, then you're certainly going to want this figure.

KURSE from THOR: THE DARK WORLD definitely has my highest recommendation!