Out of all the Phase 1 movies leading into The Avengers, Thor was my second favorite after only the first Iron Man movie. However, as much as I loved the movie, I had some complaints. I thought that the stuff on Asgard – the Shakespearean stuff – was fantastic, but the stuff on earth was a letdown and really slowed the film down. That was fixed in Thor: The Dark World, which is still a slightly uneven movie, but is still ridiculously fun.

The movie starts off with Odin (Anthony Hopkins) giving a voice over describing the original battle between the Dark Elves and the Asgardians for the Aether, a liquid powerful enough to grant Malekith the ability to bring all nine realms into darkness. This opening shows Odin’s dad beating Malekith and getting the Aether away from him, where he then orders it to be buried where no one will ever find it. This part of the movie kind of dragged, and I know it was for historical purposes to set up the story, but exposition to start a movie is not always a good idea.

After that the movie gets started. One of my biggest problems with Thor: The Dark World is that there are many things that are too coincidental in this movie, and that is actually bothersome when thinking about it after the fact. The biggest example is that the Aether is finally found – by accident – by Jane Foster, who happens to be Thor’s girlfriend. So, basically, the thing the Dark Elves want so bad, and that the Asgardians tried to hide so hard, was found by the girlfriend of the Prince of Asgard.

The good news is that the movie is good enough to allow you to enjoy it completely despite those problems, and they won’t creep up on you and make you question things until after the fact.

Thor, who has Heimdall keeping his eye on Jane Foster while he is out fighting to bring order to the Nine Realms after the Battle of New York. We even get to see one of Thor’s big battles, which was the one shown in the trailers. Just when Thor was getting the lands free of violence and saving everyone, that is when Heimdall tells him that Jane Foster has disappeared.

Thor heads to earth just as Jane returns from finding the Aether and realizes that he has to save her or she will die. Meanwhile, Malekith knows that the Aether is back and sets out to find it to send the Nine Realms into darkness. This leads to an attack on Asgard and Thor having to choose between honoring his father and king or committing treason to save everyone he loves.

With the stakes so high, the one thing Thor: The Dark World has that the first movie didn’t was great humor. There were a lot of laughs in this movie. Remember how many laughs Hulk received in The Avengers? This movie has those kinds of laughs. There is a scene midway through with Thor and Loki and a special cameo that was just perfectly timed humor. There was also cheese ball humor from Kat Dennings, who is charming enough to pull it off, and Stellan Skarsgard was also fantastic in his ability to act the fool to great laughs.

But, the movie is also well balanced in pathos. This is still a Shakespearean story, and this one allows Thor and Loki to work together to stop a common evil. The fact that they joined forces was shown in the trailer, but the reason they chose to work together I will let remain a mystery. It was – and this is what the movie boils down to – just as much Loki’s story as it was Thor’s. Now, don’t get me wrong, Loki is still a little shit, but between Thor, The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World, the three films serve as a Loki trilogy, and he received as much of a beginning, middle and end as Iron Man did in his three films.

This was the perfect conclusion to Loki’s story – although there is definitely more to come in the future for the God of Mischief.

The bad guys in this, led by Malekith, were a little too Star Trek for me, and I couldn’t stop thinking of Eric Bana’s Nero when I saw him through the first part of the movie. However, when he and Thor finally started fighting – well, this might have been one of the best fights in any Marvel Universe movie to date. I have always complained about the Iron Man and Incredible Hulk final fights being pretty generic and hated Iron Man 2’s final fight with a passion. But, this fight between Thor and Malekith was absurd, exciting and thrilling and was perfectly executed. I can honestly say that I have never seen a fight in a movie executed like this before.

From top to bottom, the acting was great. Chris Hemsworth is natural as Thor, Natalie Portman was much better this time around as Jane Foster, and Tom Hiddleston was the star of this movie once again and stole every scene he was in. Even Rene Russo got a chance to shine as Frigga. The Warriors 3, Sif, Heimdall, the bad guys, Dennings and Skarsgard – everyone was on their game for this movie.

At the end of the day, Thor: The Dark World was a very enjoyable movie, albeit ridiculous at times. I have to say it was better than Thor, if only because the movie did not lapse when it returned to earth like it did in the first one. There was also a perfect balance or humor, action, redemption and pathos. It isn’t the best Marvel movie yet, as some argue, but it is another great chapter in the studio’s growing universe.

Make sure to stay through the credits. There is one post credit scene that sets up the future of the Marvel movie universe and a second that is just a wrap-up scene and a laugh to send you home with a smile on your face.