'Spectre' film review: Bond's latest is too long, too cluttered & too shallow

'Spectre' film review: Bond's latest is too long, too cluttered & too shallow

"Spectre," starring Daniel Craig, opens in theaters nationwide Nov. 6. (Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures, used with permission.)

"Disappointing" is probably the best word to describe the latest James Bond flick "Spectre" (opening in theaters nationwide Nov. 6). This latest 007-flick feels like a throwback to the old Bond movies -- but not in a good way.

In short: James Bond (Daniel Craig) goes rogue agent as he uncovers sinister and enigmatic criminal cabal organization simply known as SPECTRE, led by its equally mysterious leader Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). Meanwhile, M (Ralph Fiennes) deals with a new British intelligence division that threatens the future of the 00-program. Léa Seydoux, Andrew Scott, Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw also star. (Watch the trailer

"Spectre" is a letdown coming off the incredible "Skyfall," which was a much more personal story for Bond and one that greatly expanded the Bond mythology (by finally introducing Moneypenny, Q and a new M). "Casino Royale" is the very best of the Bond formula and "Skyfall" finally brought 007 from cool/classy action flick to the realm of personal/dramatic film. "Spectre" is a perfectly OK popcorn movie that hits the requisite points of the Bond formula while reestablishing an old Bond nemesis (albeit in a clumsy, halfhearted attempt).

But first things first: this is a two-and-a-half hour movie that could have easily been two hours long -- if not shorter. Simply not enough happens to warrant this bloated running time. Entire portions of this film - specifically a few of the "Bond wanders the globe looking for shreds of clues" sections would have been wholesale removed and none would be the wiser. M's entire subplot is merely an excuse to give him something/anything to do -- and it's just excess fat that could have been trimmed. These scenes are long, almost pointless, barely nudge the story forward and - worst of all - they kill any small momentum "Spectre" ever manages to build.

"Spectre" tries to expand the Daniel Craig-Bond mythology by reintroducing any old 007 villain -- but even this is mishandled. This movie tortuously itself in a unnecessary attempt to reverse engineer the series to establish that SPECTRE was behind the events of "Casino Royale," "Quantum of Solace" and "Skyfall." The problem is those three movies never laid groundwork for the reveal of SPECTRE -- so this reveal is forced and unearned. And, for no good reason whatsoever, "Spectre" also tries to create a deep and personal history between Bond and new villain Oberhauser. For his part, Waltz is tragically misused -- he is only in a handful of scenes and his Franz Oberhauser is little more than a slightly muted Hans Landa from "Inglorious Basterds."

Even the timely inclusion of data surveillance and privacy is glossed over -- it's the overriding story stakes for MI6, yet it's basically just mentioned and never really alluded to again. Instead, "Spectre" swaps in a few too many pointless fist fights when a little bit more storytelling could have developed the true threat of data surveillance in the wrong hands.

Final verdict: Although "Spectre" is still better than the maligned "Quantum of Solace," it fails to live up to the high bars set by "Casino Royale" and "Skyfall." This is an OK James Bond movie relative to the entire series - but a disappointing step down from "Skyfall."

Score: 3/5

"Spectre" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language. The 24th James Bond film is now playing in theaters nationwide.

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