Based upon a manga series of the same name, As the Gods Will is a fantasy horror movie directed by experimental filmmaker Miike Takashi. The story revolves around bored high school student Shun who prays for an exciting change of routine. His prayer seems to be heard but not exactly the way he expected it when the head of his teacher explodes one morning and is replaced by a speaking doll that forces the students to play a deadly game. This is only the beginning of a series of challenges requesting endurance, intelligence, imagination and luck. Shun tries to survive the series of deadly games with friends, opponents and complete strangers who cross his path. His goals are to survive, to help his partners and to find out why they are forced to play this game in the first place.
As the Gods Will is a wonderful movie for anyone who likes Japanese culture as the different games are related to Japanese traditional children's games with a deadly twist. The different games are creative, surprising and vivid and often offer surprising turns. The film convinces with tight pace and starts without a lengthy introduction as about twenty students die in the first ten minutes alone and keeps this steady flow until the very last scene that concludes the film well but offers enough room for a potential sequel. The characters are interesting and the actors play them very well. The most important characters are Shun who is admired by many of his peers but lacking self-confidence, his charismatic and dynamic childhood friend Ichika and psychopath Amaya who enjoys the deadly games and even tries to get as many players killed as possible. Even the animated characters like a speaking doll, a giant cat, floating wooden dolls, a drawn polar bear and a group of matryoshkas are quite diversified, intriguing and surprising. Seemingly unimportant side characters like a weird hermit and a homeless man with supernatural capabilities also have important roles to play outside the school building. The colourful special effects are nicely done and remind of the anime genre. The camera work is enjoyably calm, fluid and precise and avoids current shaky camera trends. The lighting techniques blend in very well and complement the diversified locations by adding some atmosphere to the film. The fitting soundtrack rounds this movie out perfectly. As the Gods Will is highly entertaining and you won't see the two hours passing by. I almost felt like watching this detailed movie again when it concluded and I will certainly watch it with some of my friends in the future. This movie isn't far from getting the perfect grade upon first impression.
To keep it short, if you like imaginative plots with fast pace and over-the-top diversity, you will certainly appreciate As the Gods Will. Remember that this is a quite brutal movie though and it's not because it's set in a high school that minors should watch it. The great thing about this film is that it remains surprising, intellectual and creative despite its breathtaking brutality. Give it a try!