What would happen if you give prolific auteur Takashi Miike, known for some of the most insane and insanely gory genre films ever, the reigns to a film adaptation of Japanese manga “Kamisama no Iutoori”? You’d end up with As the Gods Will, an equally insane and bloody romp that plays like a hyper video game version of Battle Royale or Hunger Games. Though, instead of being forced to kill each other, the kids in this film are forced to play deadly games that involve toys from their childhoods. Those that survive are forced to play increasingly more brutal games, in a bizarre God-like selection process by elimination.
Miike barrels out of the gate with a strong, literally explosive opening scene that features the bloodiest game of Red Light/Green Light ever. It’s here we meet our lead protagonist, Shun Takahata, while his classmates meet violent ends around him. The game’s master, at least in this round, a Daruma doll, gives hints at how to beat the game in between taunts and gleefully murdering anyone who loses at its game. It’s a pattern that repeats over and over as Takahata and his allies make their way further into the game, never really knowing who or what is behind the lethal tournament. While each new level brings a completely different game and toy, it never quite reaches the strength of the film’s opening. Which is even more of a shame considering the nearly two hour running time.
As with other films of its ilk, there’s probably an underlying message to be found on violence, religion, and society, but Miike isn’t really interested in delving into any of that. He’s far more interested in having a blast and reveling in the nasty, comedic ways in which these kids are dispatched. Considering that the film’s weapon of choice are gigantic toys, this was frankly the best choice to make. The film’s premise makes a perfect pairing with Miike’s warped sense of humor, which in turn makes for the best type of film to watch in a group setting.
Cinematographer Nobuyasu Kita really elevates the film with his clean, bright aesthetic fitting of an anime. The polished presentation and the clever, whimsical toy designs all contribute to the film’s sense of fun. While it’s obvious there’s a lot of CG work in the film, most of it blends in well without becoming too detracting.
Based on the abrupt ending, it’s clear there’s more story to tell. It’s not for the cookie cutter characters that would make a sequel appealing, though, but for the insane premise and Miike’s batshit approach to telling the story. It’s his own twisted take on a teen sci-fi/horror film, and it mostly works. Bloody, violent, and wickedly funny, this is the type of popcorn flick meant to entertain. It does overstay its welcome toward the end, can become a bit repetitive, and never really gets too deep in both narrative and character development. But then again, it’s not really meant to be taken seriously. Those looking for a wacky Japanese teen horror, this is for you.
As the Gods Will screened at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival on October 18, 2016.
As the Gods Will [TADFF Review]