From the novel by Soman Chainani, The Academy of Good and Evil arrives on Netflix, an adaptation directed by Paul Feig and intended for a young audience. Between a few defects and some advantages, here is our analysis
from myths to religions, from literature to cinema, the dichotomy of good versus evil has always been the most abused, and for this reason it is extremely difficult to exploit it in an original and effective way.
Yet another opportunity comes in the form of an adaptation from novel from Soman Chainaniwhich comes to life in Netflix movies directed by Paul Feig, The Academy of Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil), a rather emblematic title of the aforementioned antagonism.
The inspiration of Chainani’s fantasy world owes much to JK Rowling, but it is equally evident that to be based on a foundation similar to that of the universe of Harry Potter is quite dangerous, and threatens to bring down the magical house of cards. Not so much actually in the literary work, given that the saga of The Academy of Good and Evil is a success that has led to the publication of 6 books, translated into 26 languages, but rather in its cinematographic counterpart transposed to the small screen of Netflix.
However, the red N platform seems to be the best place to welcome a product intended for a young audience and which in fact immediately positions itself in the top 10 of the most viewed, but we know with equal certainty that a good place in the Netflix “best” ranking does not is necessarily synonymous with quality.
However, let’s take a step back and immerse ourselves in the world created by Chainani and told to us by Feig in his version.
Many centuries ago, the twins Rhian and Rafal founded the Academy of Good and Evil, a school where the heroes and villains of fairy tales were forged, and which was intended to maintain the balance between the two forces. But Rafal wanted to keep the powers of this world to himself and using the ancient and forbidden blood magic he tried to eliminate his brother. Rhian, to prevent this from happening and throw the world into chaos, was forced to defend himself, killing Rafal. A brief but necessary premise, which takes us several centuries later to the village of Gavaldon where two girls, Sophie (Sophia Anne Caruso) and Agatha (Sofia Wylie)very different from each other but inseparable friends, are kidnapped by a dark force that takes them straight to the Academy of Good and Evil.
What emerges in going forward in the vision of Feig’s film is actually the destruction of the dualism that gives meaning to the work. In a nutshell, what the story wants to emphasize is perspective modern which allows us to understand that good and evil rarely manifest themselves in absolute forms, that therefore a witch does not necessarily have to be completely evil and a prince not necessarily a champion of absolute good. A legitimate and shareable vision, please, which however forgets that we are talking about fantasy, a fairy tale which, moreover, in this specific case has declared references to the great classics of literature such as Peter Pan or King Arthur and the knights of the round table.
This imaginary we have before us is undoubtedly already seen and devoid of great originality, but the good-evil dichotomy represented in such a scenic and glossy way, with a bewitching ultra-saturated photography, with the two castles and their students of characteristics and aesthetics diametrically opposites is still fascinating and helps to immerse ourselves in the story, with the curiosity to understand where it will take us.
The Academy of Good and Evil is clearly a product intended for an audience young adult and he has no intention of moving from there. It is evident from many factors, such as from those just exposed, but also from a sparkling direction and a soundtrack in which the traces of Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo, or again by an imaginative and slightly harlequin-like action, in which the protagonists kick fireballs or wriggle free in other bizarre acrobatics.
Here, at least, with the secondary characters removed, we can count on a good artistic cast in which the talent of Sophia Anne Caruso stands out, a little less that of Sofia Wylie, but in which the always impeccable Charlize Theron (Lady Lesso) and Kerry Washington (Clarissa Dovey)in addition to the sporadic but effective appearances of Lawrence Fishburnein the role of Principal of the Academy.
Net of all this, limited within the limits of what is its target, The Academy of good and evil also works quite well, with a perfect and pressing rhythm which becomes its best quality and which lets it flow with extreme ease the 2 hours and 30 minutes of narration, which in itself is already a great gift.
Merits and demerits will still find confirmations or denials in the future, because Feig’s film seems destined to become a saga which, regardless of our judgments, will probably be successful, as the Netflix ranking already demonstrates.