Story: Shun Takahata (Sota Fukushi) considers his life to be incredibly boring. But one day something happens that goes against all laws
of nature. The class teacher's head explodes and a living puppet head forces the students to play a game whose losers die. But when Shun survives
this game it turns out that this was just the beginning. It's impossible to leave the school building and Shun runs into his female classmate
Ichika Akimoto (Hirona Yamazaki) who is as perplexed and freaked out as he is. Only Takeru Amaya (Ryunosuke Kamiki) seems to like the games they have to play.
Eventually, the surviving students find themselves in an odd, gigantic cube that hovers above the city. The same phenomenon can be witnessed across the whole
globe and millions of students have already fallen victim to the games. Nobody can help the ones trapped in the cubes and the surviving kids are already
being called "God's children". But is really God behind the cruel games or maybe extraterrestrial invaders?
Review: Director Takashi Miike is just the right guy when it comes to absurd movies full of violence which somewhere below their surface
also hide some sort of motive. "As the Gods Will" may be brutal, but it is crazy and wacky to such a degree that it leaves no doubt about what's supposed
to stand in the focus above all else: entertainment. And whether you like it or not Miike is a master when it comes to captivate the viewer right from
the get-go. Accordingly, it only takes a few minutes for us to sit at the edge of our seat, watching as a puppet head kills off the losers of a children's
game by blowing their heads up. The oversized cat who eats the remaining students after that also doesn't look really ridiculous, but funny and dangerous
at the same time.
After his "Lesson of the Evil" director Miike returns to high school in order to stage another bloody frenzy. Contrary
to his former not so well-achieved piece of work "As the Gods Will" is notable for its constant eyewinking. Yes, the film is quite bloody at times, but then
again not to such an extent a Western target audience of gore fans maybe would want it to be. A lot of stuff is merely hinted at after all and moreover the
morbid humor tones down the horror a lot. Thanks to the game theme - only the winner survives - parallels to "Battle Royale"
can't be overlooked either. But you certainly haven't seen survival games go of the rails as much as here.
Deserving some big thumbs-up are the special effects. They stand out with fantastic cgi effects and look deliberately pastic-like, yet prove a great amount
of love for small details. Thus, all deadly puppets and toys have something cute about them, too. The extreme contrast between those toys and reality/the
actual danger they carry with them doesn't stand as the film's weakness at all, but actually is its strength! Watching finger puppet-like figures sing a
cheerful song while floating around their potential next victim is amusing and at the same time creates suspense. On paper this might sound as if this
couldn't work at all - and maybe there will be some viewers who in fact find it difficult to get along with this contrast -, but in the end those extremes
complement each other splendidly.
Storywise we are actually just going from one stage to the next while wondering all the time who or what is behind the whole violent rollercoaster ride full of lots of colors and toys as well as gruesomely dying schoolchildren. Those who hope to get an answers will be disappointed at the end, though, as the film ends with a cliffhanger - although it easily could have been made into an open ending - and this shouldn't come as a surprise since the flick is based on a manga by Muneyuki Kaneshiro and Akeji Fujimura which hasn't been finished, yet. Therefore, a sequel to "As the Gods Will" is possible, hopefully with Takashi Miike in the director's chair again. By the way, you can also easily pinpoint the movie's manga roots, e.g. in the somewhat caricatural personalities, particularly Ryunosuke Kamiki ("Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends") overacts a bit, as well as in the reflective monologues.
Unlike the games in "Kaiji: The Ultimate Gambler" there isn't much cleverness involved in "As the Gods Will". The suspense is rather the result of the lightheartedness of those scenes in which players bite the dust. The theme of inner emptiness and the feeling of being lost, which is a concern for many teenagers nowadays, as well as the desensitizedness are tackled and caricatured in a well done fashion. At the end, we are even told what we need in life to survive apart from strength, endurance and intelligence. It is a simple truth, but one that will almost hit you like a hammer. But this flick surely doesn't intend to be overly philosophical. The beautiful sets, the wonderful and at times very innovatively animated toys - the polar bear is just fantastically animated - as well as the high entertainment value, which is the result of a great mix of innocent toys and bloody violence, make "As the Gods Will" a wacky fun ride.