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'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' review: Brilliant animation with a modern pulse

Peter Parker, left, voiced by Jake Johnson, Gwen

Peter Parker, left, voiced by Jake Johnson, Gwen Stacy, played by Hailee Steinfeld, and Miles Morales, voiced by Shameik Moore, in "Spider-Man; Into the Spider-Verse." Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Animation

PLOT A Brooklyn teenager becomes the new Spider-Man -- and he’s not the only one.

CAST Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, Hailee Steinfeld

RATED PG (peril, action and a death)

LENGTH 1:57

BOTTOM LINE A fresh new Spider-Man story, with brilliant animation and a modern pulse.

How much Spider-Man is too much? Sony recently launched the third version of its live-action franchise with Tom Holland in the title role, and thanks to a deal with Disney, Spidey can moonlight in the new Avengers films as well. Now comes Sony’s animated “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” in which six web-slingers — count 'em, six — share the screen. To paraphrase Tina Turner, do we need another hero?

As it turns out, we do. The story of Miles Morales (the voice of Shameik Moore), a Brooklyn kid who becomes the new neighborhood crimefighter, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” puts a fresh twist on a now-familiar story. With its breezy humor, hip-hop soundtrack and a dazzling animated style that breaks with the last 20 years of Pixar-dominated aesthetics, “Spider-Verse” is exactly the movie we’ve been needing.

Part of the movie’s appeal is its cool, big-city vibe. Morales speaks Spanish with Mom. English with Dad (Brian Tyree Henry as Jefferson Davis, a stern but loving cop). He’s a prep-school kid with a public-school soul (shades of “The Hate U Give”) and also a secret graffiti artist. When his cool uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali) takes him to an abandoned subway station for a spray session, Miles gets his bionic spider-bite.

Miles isn’t totally flabbergasted by his new superpowers because he lives in a comics-saturated world — and “Spider-Verse” assumes we do, too. That brings up the other part of this movie’s appeal: It looks like a comic book. The animation feels hand-drawn (though in truth it’s computer-generated); the screen occasionally splits into panels; sound effects get spelled out (“Thwip!”). There’s also some astounding use of light and color whenever a Hadron-style collider — controlled by the hulking businessman Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) — starts messing with parallel universes.

The collider is what allows five other Spideys to enter Miles’ world. Only two feel like flesh-and-blood characters: The original Peter Parker (Jake Johnson), now an out-of-shape 30-something, and Miles' self-composed classmate Spider-Gwen (Hailee Steinfeld). Of the others, who are mostly zany creations meant to heighten the fun, the best is Spider-Man Noir, a black-and-white brooder with the voice of Nicolas Cage.

Directed by a three-man team, including Peter Ramsey, of “Rise of the Guardians,” and co-written by Phil Lord (“The Lego Movie”), “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” occasionally feels overly antic, but that’s because it’s brimming with imagination and energy. Look for Spidey co-creator Stan Lee, who died this year, in his first posthumous cameo.

STEINFELD'S HITS

Hailee Steinfeld, the voice of Gwen in “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” has been a steady presence on screen since her debut in 2010. Here are four of her major movies:

TRUE GRIT (2010) Steinfeld was 13, younger than the 14-year-old she would play, when she auditioned for this Coen Brothers Western. She earned rave reviews and a nod for the supporting actress Oscar.

ENDER’S GAME (2013) The film adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s classic sci-fi novel featured Steinfeld as a savvy cadet who trains the brilliant but inexperienced Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield). The movie was not a big success, but Steinfeld turned in a solid performance.

PITCH PERFECT 2 (2015) Cast as a kind of Anna Kendrick clone in this a cappella comedy sequel, Steinfeld used her voice to stand out. Her cover of Jessie J’s “Flashlight” in the film led to a deal with Republic Records and a series of singles.

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN (2016) Steinfeld shines in this cringe-inducing comedy about a whiny high-school girl who seems to be hurtling toward a dysfunctional adulthood. An underrated gem, and possibly Steinfeld’s best performance. — RAFER GUZMAN

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