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'Spectre' review: Daniel Craig's Bond mixes action, backstory

Daniel Craig stars in

Daniel Craig stars in "Spectre," his fourth James Bond movie. Wednesday's show is sold out at Regal Cinemas Deer Park. Wider release on Long Island including in IMAX theaters begins Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015, according to Fandango. Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures

PLOT

James Bond infiltrates the shadowy organization that has haunted him all his life. Rated PG-13 (violence and mild sexuality).

BOTTOM LINE

An uneven mix of eye-popping action and superhero-style origin story.

CAST

Daniel Craig, Léa Seydoux, Christoph Waltz

LENGTH

2:28

The Marvel-ization of James Bond continues with "Spectre," the fourth film in the rebooted series with Daniel Craig as Agent 007. In this installment, eye-popping action shares space with backstory as Bond's traditionally unexplored history comes to light, old ghosts are resurrected and plotlines are left conveniently dangling to make room for further developments.

Initially, "Spectre" holds great promise as a Bond film in the old-fashioned mode. Directed by Sam Mendes ("Skyfall") with a reportedly whopping $300 million budget, "Spectre" opens with a magnificent sequence in Mexico City that follows Bond in a single tracking shot through a street-crowd of thousands, into a top-floor hotel room (with a woman, naturally) and onto an adjoining rooftop that becomes the setting for some spectacular property damage. In a franchise famous for its opening gambits, this may be the topper.

For its first two-thirds, this epic-length action film continues apace.

As Bond hops the globe and butts heads with his bosses (Ralph Fiennes replaces Judi Dench as M, while Andrew Scott plays a questionable new bureaucrat dubbed C), "Spectre" moves at crackling speed but with all the costumed finery and gorgeous sets of a Hollywood musical.

It's nice to see that Bond and his new companion -- Léa Seydoux as Madeleine Swann, the good-hearted daughter of an old villain -- brought their evening wear while fleeing on a train from Austria to Tangier.

Alas, when Christoph Waltz steps out of the shadows and into his role as Oberhauser, head of the surveillance-obsessed network known as Spectre, the movie flags.

Oberhauser is revealed to be a familiar figure in the Bond universe -- no spoilers here, but you can Google it -- and Waltz, usually a wonderful scenery-chewer, seems weighed down by all the narrative history.

Add to that an overlong climax full of cliches (Ben Whishaw, as Q, helms the laptop in a race against time), and you've got a Bond film that feels caught between its roots as a mindlessly enjoyable action-franchise and its new mandate to deliver the operatic emotions and sudsy plot lines of today's superhero properties.

In real life, Craig has been making noises about wanting to hang up 007's bespoke Tom Ford suit.

Maybe that's because it's looking more and more like a pair of tights.

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