A little less conversation?

“Casino Royale”MGM PicturesDirected by Martin CampbellScreenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis, based on the novel by Ian FlemingStarring: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Giancarlo Giannini, Jeffrey Wright, Simon Abkarian and Judi DenchRated PG-13/144 minutesOpens Nov. 17, 2006Three out of four stars

So much for reinventing the franchise.

For four years, the James Bond series — which dates back to 1962’s “Dr. No” — has been in limbo. Since Pierce Brosnan was unceremoniously shown the door following 2002’s poorly received “Die Another Day,” producers and studio execs have been telling us that the flagging franchise needed a good shot in the arm — “a whole new approach,” “a completely new direction,” etc.

But now comes “Casino Royale,” a curious film, not because it’s different, but because it’s pretty much more of the same — gratuitous action scenes, lots of gunplay, sexy cars, one-liners and explosions. The ingredients the Bond films have been relying on for decades are all there.

So where is this “new approach” they’ve been talking about?

The approach to Bond himself is a little more human than what we’ve seen in recent years. Daniel Craig is given more room to breathe as an actor than Pierce Brosnan ever was (unfortunate, since Brosnan is actually a good actor, too). This Bond is more vulnerable and more relatable, and he doesn’t shag nearly as many women as his predecessors.

By the way, could we get a movie-by-movie breakdown of Bond’s conquests, separated by actor? I’d have to assume that Sean Connery is the alpha male of this group, but I could be wrong. I would pay money for this information.

But that’s the only significant change — and given how often Bond is chased, shot at or otherwise engaged, it’s a relatively minor one, and easily overlooked. The result is an odd tug-of-war between a real actor giving a real performance (suggesting a deeper, character-driven thriller) and the two-and-a-half hours worth of stunts and chases that he’s forced to endure.

The filmmakers very well may have wanted to make a grittier, more realistic Bond film, while at the same time remaining beholden to their target demographic.

Thirteen-year-old boys wield way too much clout.

Based on Ian Fleming’s very first Bond novel, “Casino Royale” shows us how Bond came to be. The fantastic opening scene shows us Bond fulfilling his two-kill prerequisite needed for “double-O” status. From there, he has to infiltrate a high-stakes poker game, organized by the villain, Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), that has a final take of $150 million.

Here’s a little something about Mads Mikkelsen. Looking at him, I can say with confidence that there are only a few things he could have possibly done with his life:

1. Bond villain2. Lead singer for Rammstein tribute band3. Vampire4. Bond villain

That’s it. That’s the list. There were no other options. You’ll know what I mean when you see his face. But I digress.Bond’s financier for the game is the newest Bond girl, Vesper Lynd, played quite well by the talented Eva Green. You might remember her from Bertolucci’s “The Dreamers.” The difference in “Casino Royale” is that she wears clothes.

The plot is flimsy and unimportant, even by Bond standards. All the intrigue we’ve seen in other Bond movies is recycled here.

That’s a good thing and a bad thing, and it’s why I have mixed feelings about the movie as a whole. “Casino Royale” gives us most of what we have come to expect from these movies. The action scenes, while sometimes too long, are fun and well executed. The sets and special effects are impressive. The stunts are awesome. So for what it’s worth, the movie does its job. But when we’ve been promised something different and edgier, it’s also a little bit of a disappointment.

Much has been made of the casting of Daniel Craig as 007, but all the controversy was unwarranted. He knocks the role out of the park; he’s the one thing about the film that stands out from the rest of the recent Bond fare. After two years of speculation that put everyone from Clive Owen to Orlando Bloom in the role, the producers made a smart (and ballsy) choice. Hopefully, the work he put into creating a new Bond character in “Casino Royale” pays off with a few better scripts in the near future. But regardless of the film’s flaws, James Bond just doing what he does best will always have a place in the movies.