Review: Netflix’s New Fantasy ‘The School for Good and Evil’


via Netflix

Kayla Katounas

The School For Good and Evil is a young adult fantasy film released by Netflix on October 19, 2022. It is based on the book series of the same name by Soman Chainani. The School for Good and Evil contains six books in the series, with the first being published in 2013 and the last in 2020. The series is currently sitting in the top ten on the New York Times bestseller list for children’s series.

The School for Good and Evil follows Sophie and Agatha, opposite best friends from a town called Gavaldon. Sophie dreams of being a princess, while Agatha can’t escape being called a witch. When they are swept away to a school that trains the great heroes and villains of fairy tales, they are sure they know which school they are going to, but when Agatha is deemed good and Sophie evil, their friendship is tested as they try to make their way back to each other and their correct schools, putting the line between good and evil into question.

The first time I read The School for Good and Evil, I was in fifth grade. I immediately fell in love with the series and have since read it several times and even met the author. When I found out my favorite book was finally becoming a movie, I was thrilled. I have spent the last few years following the progress of the movie, from casting announcements to production, leading up to its release. While watching, it felt like the kind of movie I would have watched on repeat as a kid, replaying the dramatic fight scenes and climax over and over again. I can acknowledge that the role of this story and its characters in my childhood may have influenced my opinion. I think I saw some of the weaker parts through rose-colored glasses, overwhelmed by my excitement about the magical setting of the schools. Even so, this movie made me happy, and for me, that is the mark of a good film. It made me feel such a strong sense of nostalgia for a ten-year-old me who loved princesses and fairy tales.

Overall, I was happy with the movie. It wasn’t very accurate to the book, but with a novel as full of action as this one, it would be nearly impossible to include everything. I think that the story may have been better suited as a TV show, as multiple episodes would allow the story more time to progress and develop the characters further and more naturally. Fantasy is a difficult genre to squeeze into 146 minutes, and I think some important story elements may have been sacrificed for time.

My first impression was that it was aesthetically gorgeous. The costumes were intricate and extravagant, and the scenery was colorful and perfectly created the fantasy atmosphere. It was a magical moment seeing my favorite characters come to life on the screen, and the performances of Sofia Wylie as Agatha and Sophia Anne Caruso as Sophie were two of the strongest parts of the film. The friendship between Sophie and Agatha was the heart of the story, and their chemistry was genuine and fun. Along with the leads, the cast featured many other acting greats, including Kerry Washington, Michelle Yeoh, and Academy Award winner Charlize Theron as staff in the School for Good and Evil, all of them perfectly straddling the line between good and evil.

The film has been subject to mixed reviews, with much of its criticism coming from its similarity to the Harry Potter franchise. There have also been issues with its portrayal of good vs. evil characters, with the good students being portrayed as more stereotypically beautiful. While never explicitly stated, fans have pointed out the implication that a person’s character can be determined by their physical appearance, a notion that is clearly false. This is made worse by the fact that the film cut a pivotal scene from the book in which Agatha, a character who spends the majority of the story being called “ugly,” discovers her inner beauty. The moment was instead released on social media as a deleted scene.

The movie only contains the events of the first book, though the movie ends with its narrator, voiced by Cate Blanchett, saying “the story is just beginning.” Additionally, Paul Feig, the film’s director, told Entertainment Weekly that “the goal is definitely for this to be a franchise.” There is clearly potential for Netflix to continue to adapt the book series following the success of the first movie. Feig continued by saying, “That’s the plan going forward, just take all the material of these books and hopefully make a franchise out of it. We love the characters, love the world. The books are super fun and very dense.” If you are a fan of fantasy, I think this film is a great choice, especially with younger friends or family members, and the books are great reads for those interested in continuing the story.