I will confess that I had to chuckle a bit as I clicked on the Amazon Prime Video link page for writer/director Cody Vibbart's recently released lo-budget sci-fi animated feature The Exigency, a film 13 years in the making pieced together by Vibbart bits and pieces at a time with the sort of relentless commitment one makes when you've started a project, look at how far you've gone, then basically say to yourself "Well, I can't quit now."
Indeed, Vibbart never quit.
The reason that I chuckled was because the sole review that popped up for the film was from an enthusiastic supporter who rated the film 5 stars and proclaimed it to be an unexpected masterpiece that is "incredibly engaging and wonderfully written."
So, either Vibbart has the absolute best friends and family in the world or someone has been smoking a bit too much weed before clicking on his Amazon Prime account.
I'm just sayin'.
Now then, if you think I'm headed toward describing The Exigency as a sort of trainwreck you should think again.
Truthfully, there's something inherently watchable about the film. It's endearingly flawed and rather weirdly enjoyable in that same way we look back at old school video games that we secretly still love.
I didn't love The Exigency, but I admired it and I admired Vibbart's dogged commitment to releasing the film to the public after 13 years of constructing the nearly two-hour film and despite his self-awareness that the film is imperfect, flawed, and downright retro in its style.
Despite everything, Vibbart has released The Exigency and is actively seeking reviews for the film.
I love that. I truly, truly love that.
I still don't love The Exigency.
The story centers around Kyle (Tom Haney), whom we meet as he plugs away at his high-rise office job yet there's never any doubt there's something more to his story. Indeed, there is more to his story. Kyle is a former military hero from the planet Gallesha who fled the planet for Earth in order to escape his past and start a new life. Settled in, he's married with two kids and a job that is anything but exciting until the one day his high-rise is attacked by spaceships from the planet Anumbis, a planet currently at war with Gallesha and who've come determined to take out their currently peaceful but potentially threatening enemy. Not long after, Kyle and his family are rescued by a Galleshan warship and escorted back to Gallesha and its fumbling, bumbling king and seemingly inept military that are both failing in their efforts to defend themselves from Diederick, Anumbis's own dominating war hero.
If Michael Bay were to make a retro-styled video game, the odds are it would look an awful lot like The Exigency, a hyper-ambitious effort with cheesy dialogue, amateurish CGI, and definitely too long.
However, let's be honest. If I'd spent 13 years working on a film, I'd make it as long as I wanted to make it.
Despite its flaws, the Amazon overly enthusiastic reviewer is actually on to something and Vibbart deserves all the credit for it. The Exigency is a far better film than you'd ever expect it to be, a fun to watch effort with an immersive world created by Vibbart that has amazing potential even if it doesn't entirely live up to that potential. The Exigency may not be anywhere near the best film I've ever watched, but neither was it a film that I ever had the desire to turn off. Even at its worst, Vibbart managed to create a film that is intriguing to watch and with a story, that while simple and familiar, is consistently involving.
In other words, Vibbart has done an awful lot of things right here.
The film's vocal work is competent, neither standing out nor ever being distracting despite the visual presentation of the characters being by far the film's weakest component. Interestingly, and perhaps the greatest evidence of Vibbart's improved skills over the years, the characters improve throughout the film yet are consistent enough that the improvement never proves to be a distraction.
The world of indie cinema is filled with everything from undiscovered works of wonder to soon to be forgotten cinematic potholes. The Exigency is the kind of film you enjoy discovering, not because it's particularly brilliant or destined for awards season glory but because you get the thrill of seeing a promising young animator or filmmaker committing themselves to the journey of filmmaking and telling a story they want to tell.
In these cases, reviews are almost irrelevant except for the simple fact that they help spread the word that for those with adventurous cinematic tastes and a willingness to suspend the need for Hollywood's stylings there are imperfect, flawed, even amateurish productions with tremendous promise and mega-heart waiting to be discovered.
The Exigency is such a film and it's available for viewing on Amazon Prime. If you love it, or simply want to support the filmmaker's years of commitment to the project, you can also purchase the film.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic