Teeming with characters and references to prior movies, television shows and comics, “The Marvels” is serviceable.

It is neither terrible nor great. Inside this film – brief for a Marvel movie with an hour and 45-minute running time – is about 15 minutes of great wit and clever writing.

‘The Marvels’ (IMDb)

Its numerous references to prior comics, television and Marvel Cinematic Universe films are too numerous and spread too thin for real character development to happen.

This is not the fault of director Nia DaCosta, who helmed the stellar “Little Woods” and “Candyman.” It’s because of a lack of focus in its writing and on its characters.

Brie Larson again is enjoyable as Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers. She’s shown here with her sidekick, the catlike Goose (played by two different kitties, Nemo and Tango, with the help of a lot of CGI work.) Goose actually is a Flerken, a tentacled creature with incredible abilities

Captain Marvel is the idol of teen Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani,) whose dream comes true when she teams up with Captain Marvel and astronaut Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris.)

The villain here is Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton,) who seeks revenge on Captain Marvel. Dar-Benn wants to get her mitts on powerful “quantum bands,” one of which is in Kamala’s possession.

Captain Marvel, Kamala and Monica suddenly begin to change places when they use their powers. They must figure out why while keeping each other, and the universe, safe.

The film, with its uneven story line, is about what you’d expect. That is, except for two utterly brilliant and far-too-short sequences. One involves Captain Marvel’s visit to a planet where the inhabitants sing instead of talk, and the other involves Flerken characters. These scenes are charming, funny, and full of wit.

“The Marvels” is OK, but it’s a far cry from the likes of the recent “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Black Panther” or “Captain America.”

Marvel diehards who have watched the television shows and read the comics will appreciate the references here. Others, just as I did, will be scratching their heads in confusion, waiting for another glimpse of a Flerken.

2 stars

Running time: One hour and 45 minutes.

Rated: PG-13 for adult themes and battle scenes.

Only in theaters.

Watch the trailer here.