Don’t be fooled by the roughly rendered computer graphics — The Exigency is an amusing curiosity of a film and a clear example of dedication to visual craft.
Writer and director Cody Vibbart spent thirteen years making The Exigency, a daunting task considering how much time and effort this took, as well as having to maintain the artistic drive to see this project all the way through to the end. Twelve years were spent designing and animating the film in programs Poser, Bryce, and After Effects, as well as reanimating some sequences. The end result of these thirteen years is a 112 minute feature film with the ambitions of a sci-fi action blockbuster, and despite the amateur animation quality on its surface, is a film most compelling for the pure passion and creative voice that shines through it.
The film opens on a seemingly normal workday where Kyle (Tom Haney) is called to his boss’ office for a promotion. The celebration is interrupted when belligerent spacecraft descend from the sky and attack the office building, targeting Kyle. Escaping the destruction of his workplace, Kyle gathers his family and they are taken aboard another spaceship. As they leave Earth, Kyle reveals the shocking truth to his family—he is a war hero from the planet Gallesha who left behind a decorated military career to start a new life on Earth. While he is brought back to Gallesha to help devise a new military strategy and pick up the pieces of the king’s failures, Kyle promises his family that he wants nothing to do with his past life and refuses to become entangled in the mess of galactic politics and war again, until the true stakes reveal themselves and he is forced back into action.
The Exigency suffers from a messy, incomplete narrative. After a frenetic first act, the bulk of the film’s middle features heavy exposition, mostly through dialogue thrown at the audience. There’s a sense of greater scope to this cinematic world, but much of that only seems to exist outside the plot. The worldbuilding feels aimless and underdeveloped, lacking a cohesive imagination, instead a series of disparate elements of galactic culture and politics, haphazard ideas that probably sound cool in theory but are never fully realized. For instance, there’s a reference to Gallesha being the original homeworld of humanity, but that detail doesn’t go anywhere beyond just a throwaway line to surprise Kyle’s family when he reveals the truth to them. We easily get the sense that the world of the film exists as genre background to allow for sci-fi action spectacle, rather than a fully realized imaginative concept put to screen. Most frustrating, however, is an unresolved ending, especially considering that the exposition heavy second act seems to enclose the story into one contained film.
At first, the rough, cheap look of the computer graphics gives off the impression of an unfinished render, the unsightly character animation dramatically clashing against the more detailed design of background environments. It’s clear to see that different 3D modeling programs were used to design these different visual elements, lacking a cohesive aesthetic throughout. While jarring to our eyes that now come to expect clean, polished animation, the video game aesthetic of the film, no matter how rough and amateur it looks, ultimately succeeds in deepening our immersion into the world of the film. In a series of robust set pieces in the frantic third act especially, Vibbart’s animation captures visual perspectives and angles in longer, unbroken shots with a more immersive range of motion than traditional live action could, adding greater dimension to the spatial setting within the frame. Additionally, the CG design allows for greater visual imagination, realizing fantastical settings and effects like explosions into these sequences.
The Exigency is a strange beast of a film. On its surface, its shoddy animation resembles an unfinished video game yet to be fully rendered, and the equally haphazard narrative with an incomplete story too reliant on exposition also feels like an early draft of a science fiction story, with ambitions its narrative infrastructure cannot properly capture. Yet, underneath, it’s a strangely compelling film, thrilling in its moments of visual immersion and admirable in its self-confidence.
It never takes itself too seriously, straying away from too much doom and gloom with a playful, off-kilter comedic sensibility, best witnessed in the character Timmy (Warren Halderman), Kyle’s wisecracking son, who wears a black t-shirt that reads “pimp” and makes plenty of laughable remarks throughout. Inconsistent as a whole perhaps, but that’s the beauty of a flawed creation, a raw vision uncompromised by studio interference or budgetary limitations, and even accompanied with “traditional” imperfections we’ve been conditioned to identify, there is clear passion and dedication on display here, most certainly welcome.
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