I’ve just come back from a trip. It wasn’t entirely long, but it was certainly very strange, and I won’t be forgetting it any time soon. The Spine of Night is a surreal, blood-soaked fever dream of epic proportions that recalls esoteric animated classics like 1981’s Heavy Metal Ralph Bakshi’s animated adaptation of Lord of the Rings. It unfolds a fantastical and outrageously violent saga throughout the course of its runtime, a story that touches on at times deeply philosophical themes of truth, knowledge, and the futility of existence. At times, The Spine of Night is even profoundly nihilistic—but also beautiful, and thoughtful.
Ultimately, though, The Spine of Night is a series of stories interwoven together to create a larger narrative with a certain element as its central theme, or the core which all the players and other elements revolve. We are shown the stories of multiple characters, their tragedies and tribulations, as they suffer and survive in a magical, yet grim, world over the course of centuries. Most all of the individual stories are tragic in nature, with the struggles of the characters oftentimes feeling like they amount to nothing. They fight and scrape and often succumb to awful, violent ends. Perhaps, though, their struggle is a metaphor for something greater—an observation of the bigger picture of existence, universal existence, examined through the lens of intimate conflicts. Because that is a strong theme which runs throughout the The Spine of Night, the ultimate point of existence. What purpose our lives serve in the grand scheme of things in a reality where colossal gods and unbelievable magic exists. What value does a single human life hold in such a world? Or even a city full of humans, toiling away the days of their lives? It’s heady stuff, to be sure.
Beyond the sometimes heavy message woven through The Spine of Night, the movie itself is a joy to behold with lushly painted scenery and backgrounds as well as fantastic character and concept design. The art, all around, is simply excellent. So too is the voice acting, with The Spine of Night featuring a number of serious names in the voice acting department such as Lucy Lawless, Patton Oswald, and a number of others. Everyone is delivering a solid performance as well, fully investing themselves in their characters and bringing them to life. It all comes together to create an immensely enjoyable experience. There’s honestly not enough well-crafted, well thought out animation coming from western studios these days, which makes The Spine of Night all the more exceptional. We need more like this, more stories told through the unique lens of animation with its limitless potential. If you’re a fan of animation, of fantasy, of thoughtful stories that might leave you wondering at your place in existence, I cannot recommend The Spine of Night enough and feel very confident giving it a solid four out of five stars.