What to Know about Netflix’s The School for Good and Evil

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Netflix’s adaptation of Soman Chainani’s The School for Good and Evil has already prompted debate and garnered conversation since its release on Wednesday. Notably, viewers have zeroed in on similarities they say the film shares with the Harry Potter franchise, noting the movie carries many elements of what people loved about the J.K Rowling series.

The movie, which has a star-studded cast that includes Kerry Washington, Charlize Theron, Michelle Yeoh, Laurence Fishburne, and Patti LuPone, follows two inseparable best friends, Sophie (Sophia Anne Caruso) and Agatha (Sofia Wylie). Sophie’s blonde hair and floral dresses matches her a sunshine-y attitude, while Agatha dons black clothing and has to fight against rumors of being a witch because her mother makes herbal teas. After learning about the School for Good and Evil, the two are snatched up by a giant skeletal bird and then dropped in the school that is in direct opposition to their personalities—Sophie at the school for Evil and Agatha at the school for Good. The movie was released to subpar reviews but received mixed reactions, especially from those familiar with the book that inspired the adaptation.

Here’s everything you need to know about Netflix’s new young adult film.

What to know about the book the movie is based on

The first book in the series, also called The School for Good and Evil, was released in 2013, with six more books published between 2014 and 2020. Director Paul Feig told IGN he tried to be realistic about what elements from the book could be translated to screen.

“It’s all based on the story, obviously, because it’s about the characters on their journey and making sure that that’s what grounds us and keeps us going,” he said. “But then it’s about going, ‘Okay, these are the main set-pieces from the book that are important to people. These are the ones that I think we can make really cool, and really advance the story and tell the characters through them,’ and then you just apply, ‘How do we do it in a way that we haven’t seen before?’ It’s fun, it’s a real exciting challenge.”

Author Soman Chainani was also involved in the development of the film and told Radio Times that “Only a foolish author would insist on a slavish translation that speaks to no one but the most literal of readers—a reader’s imagination is usually much more vivid and precise than anything that can be put on screen.”

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Why it has been compared to Harry Potter

The movie has received mostly negative reviews, namely from The Guardian, which gave it one out of five stars. The New York Times wrote that the movie had too many problems: “cheesy special effects; blatant telegraphing of plot points; crude world-building and scant character development; cloyingly oversaturated, superficially glossy cinematography and precious direction; ridiculous action (fireballs kicked like soccer balls, weaponized hot chocolate), set to a soundtrack of teenage-girl angst (Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo).”

Passionate fans of the book had differing emotions with some criticizing its badly-written script that paired with a stellar cast, while others felt the movie did everything it set out to do. “The school for good and evil movie is actually so fucked bc how do u have an insanely talented cast and stellar costumes and set yet the WORST script/plotline and editing imaginable,” one person tweeted. Someone else wrote, “As a person who had read and fell in love with the books. I was afraid it would not live up to my expectations, but the movie was executed perfectly, staying true to the lines of the book and its plot.”

There were also comparisons drawn to Harry Potter in many reviews. The Guardian noted in its review that there was a “regurgitation of archetypal Potterisms.” It continued, “from the lakeside training sessions to the handsome dining halls to the belief that everyone’s either a friend, rival or crush.”

Paste Magazine also pointed out the similarities between the characters, writing, “the teachers are blatant imitations of Harry Potter’s instructional staff. Lady Lesso (Charlize Theron), Dean of the School for Evil, possesses the same cold exterior as Slytherin’s Snape. Professor Dovey (Kerry Washington) holds impossible standards and theatrical mannerisms, making her a cross between Dolores Umbridge and Professor Trelawney. Even Hagrid, the gentle half-giant is ripped off by an enormous, rag-wearing gnome” They also pointed out that the classroom scenes are very similar to those in Hogwarts.

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Will there be a sequel?

There are seven books in the series, so a sequel to the movie is likely. The movie also ends on a cliffhanger with the line, “It became clear that this was only the beginning,” leaving much more to be desired.

Netflix has not yet confirmed whether there will be a sequel.

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Write to Moises Mendez II at moises.mendez@time.com