Netflix’s new release, The School for Good and Evil, is a fantasy film directed by Paul Feig (Ghostbusters, Bridesmaids, A Simple Favor, etc.) The movie is based on the young adult novel of the same name by Soman Chainani, with the screenplay co-written by David Magee and Paul Feig. The film stars Sophia Anne Caruso, Sofia Wylie, Charlize Theron, Kerry Washington, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Flatters, Kit Young, and Peter Serafinowicz.
While the YA edition of the novel is divided into six books, it seems like the movie has a promising future with its dedicated franchise supposed in the works. In this piece, I try to recapture almost everything that happens in the movie, trying to explain its more complex details. Spoiler alert; Please read at your discretion.
The School for Good and Evil Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:
In the village of Gavaldon, two inseparable girls named Sophie (Sophia Anne Caruso) and Agatha (Sofia Wylie) find solace in each other and become best friends. Sophie loves fantasy and dreams of becoming a princess just like in the fairy tales. On the other hand, given the grim background Agatha hails from, she is often denounced as the town’s witch.
While Sophie is disrespected by her family for being different, Agatha is called mean things just because her mother makes magical portions. The two girls have grown tired of the dry and uninteresting life in Gavaldon before one day, the powerful spirit of the School for Good and Evil takes them away to the magical land of mystical arts. It seems everything will now become perfect for them.
However, Sophie finds herself among witches in the School for Evil run by sharp-tongued Lady Lesso (Charlize Theron), while Agatha is surrounded by the angelic-like world, i.e The School for Good, led by sugarcoated and kind Professor Dovey (Kerry Washington).
The school beams with nepotism in the name of Cinderella, Captain Hook, and the son of the late King Arthur. Evilness and fierce competition are other factors the girls, along with other pupils, have to fight to be the perfect student the academy has seen in a long time.
While Sophie fights her way to get into the right school she deserves to be in, Agatha is headstrong about heading back to her life in Gavaldon with her best friend.
As per the School headmaster, only the true love kiss can change the rules and send the girls to the rightful school they think they belong to. However, things turn upside down when a bloody-dark figure tries to control Sophie, creating chaos and threatening to destroy everything in the school.
Will Agatha and Sophie’s friendship survive the chaos? Will good win over evil in this movie like we have read in the fairy tales? Before I describe what takes place at the film’s end, here are a few things that play a significant role in how the story unfolds.
Who plays the storian, and what does she do?
The storian voiced by Cate Blanchett is a powerful magical artifact (or ink pen) responsible for writing down everything that takes place in the fairy world. It resides in the school headmaster’s tower in Halway Bay within the school for good and evil.
The storian documents everything to the minute detail that takes place both in the enchanted and non-magical world. Both Sophie & Agatha are what they term as ‘readers’ – people who read the stories that are penned by the storian. It is also believed that nobody can undo the words penned by the storian. As an audience, we can also hear the storian narrate the story as it unfolds throughout the film.
What is the spirit that takes young children on the red moon night?
The school’s headmaster for good and evil seems to change into the dark, powerful force that only emerges on the night of blood red moon. Legends believe that this dark energy can identify good and evil traits of young children; based on that, it sweeps young kids away to the School for Good and Evil – the center for all the true stories where the actual fairy tale begins. So basically like the sorting hat from Harry Potter, minus the voice and in a spirit form.
What is the school for Good and Evil?
The school is divided between the School for Good and the School for Evil. The School for Good is about enlightenment, learning the various spells that promote love and beauty, and writing a story that is always happily ever after. The Students for Good are called the Evers and follow a strict regime to adhere to the rules and regulations of the good school.
On the contrary, the other half belongs to the School for Evil, and the students are called the Nevers. They study pure evilness and imbibe the habit of only seeking darkness. Their inclination towards immoral acts or propagating sin is highly regarded in the School for Evil.
Why is a true love kiss important for Sophie?
When Sophie and Agatha get dropped off at the opposing schools, they do everything to prove to the supreme that they are in the wrong school. At the same time, seeing the girls rebelling, the school’s headmaster points out that only a true love kiss can make the girls switch schools.
Meanwhile, Sophie is smitten by the gorgeous looks and mighty machoism of Tredos (in the school for good), the son of the late king Arthur and believes that he is her one true love. Hence, she devises a plan with Agatha that would make Tredos fall for her leading them to share a true love kiss.
What is a finger glow and how does it work?
Finger glow is a unique color of the school’s students for good and evil that unlocks once their leaders allow them to use magic. Different color of finger glow emotes various emotions while using the magic. The glow only occurs when the students have gathered enough emotions/purpose to cast a spell or enchantment.
What happens to the students who fail three consecutive times?
There is a rule in both schools that the students are expected to do all the tasks assigned to them. If any student fails to adhere to one of these tasks, they fail and are given an F grade in the task. Students who fail three consecutive times in a task are turned into Mogrifs.
Mogrif is basically a human turned into living or non-living things (e.g., the talking teacup in The Beauty and The Beast). They can appear alongside any characters in the fantasy world – they could be a hero, villain, or a sidekick. For instance, in the film, Agatha grants the desire of the wish fish that had been fulfilling the wishes of the Evers students when her own wish was to be in human form and return to her home.
Who is Rafal, and what does he want with Sophie?
Rafal and his brother Rhian ran the school for good and evil together to maintain a balance between both sides. However, Rafal had unlocked the secret to blood magic and wanted to use it to control the entire world. When Rhian saw the greed in his brother’s eyes, he tried to stop him; however, while battling with one another, both fell from a high cliff.
Rafal had been prodding Sophie to seek the darkness she thought she never had. He twisted the truth and hinted at her becoming the person he wanted her to be. Sophie turns to her darkness and thinks Rafal is helping her get what she wants – i.e., to get into the School for Good. Rafal gives her access to blood magic in the hope of destroying both the schools and keeping the magic to himself.
What is trial by tale?
As per the headmaster, Trial by Tale is one of the greatest honors at the School for Good and Evil. It is a fierce competition undertaken only by the best of students. The students of the Evers and Nevers who decide to take part in the contest are sent to the deep dark blue forest for the night to see who can last longer until the break of the dawn. There are various traps and hurdles that both students have to fight through to win the Trial.
In the film the School for Good and Evil, when the Supremes learn that students of the opposing school are dating, the headteacher declares a Trial by Tale so that Sophie and Tredos can prove that they are meant to be together.
They are then sent to the forest with a piece of red clothing that they can drop at any moment when they wish to be back in a safe place.
However, while Tredos kept his word and fought the terrifying forces of the forest, Sophie didn’t help him fight the blood-lust enchanted piece of wood. This is where Agatha steps in screaming at her best friend to help Tredos win the trial. But when Tredos sees that his girlfriend didn’t reciprocate by showing her true love he drops the red cloth and vanishes.
Why did Rafal kill Rhian?
When Rhian learns that his brother has unlocked the forbidden magic and is using it in everyday life, he pleads with him to not turn into the darkness, explaining why black magic is forbidden. However, Rafal is too blind to see the balance of good and evil and tries to kill his brother.
While fighting, the brothers fall off the cliff; when Rhian thinks he has lost his brother Rafal strikes him from behind, killing his only brother out of greed and power that had taken over him.
The School for Good and Evil Movie Ending, Explained:
On the day of the much-awaited ball night, Sophie bursts through the door, making everyone look at her in shock. Using Rafal’s blood magic, Sophie attacks the teachers and students turning them into living toys. Not to forget that the eviler she becomes, the uglier she gets (exactly how we see or read in any fairy tale).
Tredos announces a war between the two schools and asks every student from the Good School to kill the wicked witch that Sophie has now become. However, she soon turns the table, and the Evers strike at the Nevers – thus breaking the code where the good never strikes at evil, no matter how worse the situation becomes.
However, when Sophie reaches the headmaster’s tower in Halway Bay to avenge her rights, she soon realizes that she has made the mistake of agreeing to Rafal’s terms. It turns out that Rafal has been pretending to be the headmaster, Rhian, as he shares with her his intentions to destroy the entire school and use his dark magic to the optimum.
He had been grooming her so she could be his true love. As mentioned earlier, a true love kiss will enable him to take over the good, and evil will take its place. Sophie regrets her decision as she sees her friends dying because of Rafal’s evil doings.
Meanwhile, Agatha who always comes to rescue her best friend enters and when Rafal aims his dagger to kill her, Sophie jumps in to save her friend. It seems Sophie is not the evil person everyone thought she was and has a good heart that makes her see-through Rafal’s action.
In the meantime, Agatha kills Rafal and Sophie dies in Agatha’s arms after confessing her love to her. Agatha also shares her tenderness and kisses Sophie on her lips as a goodbye to her best friend. At this moment, like in any fairy tale, Agatha’s tears heal Sophie’s wounds, bringing her back to life.
In the end, the destroyed schools return to their old state, with the people throwing away their egos and resentments for one another. The leaders of both schools mend their ways and finally acknowledge their friendship.
We also see the vortex open to the unmagical world as Sophie tells Agatha that she must stay back in school if she wants to be with Tredos. However, Agatha prioritizes her friendship over her fondness for the future king. Both the girls jump into the vortex – returning to the real or disenchanted world.
Will there be a sequel to The School for Good and Evil on Netflix?
When the girls return, the film indicates to us that there could be a chance for a The School for The Good and Evil Part 2 as we see Tredos’ dagger making its way into the non-magical world.
The School for Good and Evil (2022) Movie Review:
We have all grown up reading or watching numerous fairytales where good always wins over the bad, and the prince always saves the day. The girls need to be in a certain standard of beauty and grace, while the prince must be mighty and cannot show his vulnerability, etc.
I always wished to see the opposite of what we have learned from these tales. And to start with, The School for Good and Evil did try to break free from the stereotypical angle of this obsession with happily ever afters.
The film tries to address some of these regressive issues by showing that true love can also be between two best friends irrespective of what gender they belong to. The witches can be prettier, and the princess can be a strong-headed woman with an opinion.
The Netflix film also makes a critical observation that anyone can become anything if they are happy and willing to pursue it rather than doing it because something is always expected of them.
However, the film does not work even with these hefty intentions. Part of it is because people like J. K. Rowling and all the filmmakers involved with the Harry Potter franchise have built the gigantic world of Hogwarts so intriguing and beloved, that audiences craving for something along the same lines will never be truly satisfied.
The fans of Soman Chainani’s popular YA novel franchise may feel differently; however, people who are very much into magic and fantasy will be disheartened to see how half-heartedly the world is created.
Unfortunately, Paul Feig’s attempt to construct a world for the School for Good and Evil falls flat with poor clarity of vision and imagination. The theme of balancing good and evil is well established but is sadly never explored in all its esteemed complexities.
I also wish they had worked harder on the CGI, as it turned pretty ugly as the movie comes to an end. The constant need for exposition for instance explaining the magic and the dark forces felt like force-feeding the story to you.
I cannot blame the runtime as it takes time to build a world this vast; however, it could have actually used a little more attention to its characters rather than the world-building. Consequently, the movie ends up being another half-hearted approach from the streaming giant to make some easy money by establishing a franchise that at least the followers of the fantasy realms would definitely check into.