Potter 5 was always going to be sulkily brooding: the book throbs like a Nirvana song with teenage angst. More surprising, however, is its macabre, sinister style, which more resembles a Japanese horror film than a childrens fairytale. It would seem that David Yates, the franchises fifth director, has decided to turn his back on the younger viewers and take inspiration from other sources, namely Welles masterpiece Citizen Kane and the work of directors like Nakata (The Ring) and Fincher (Fight Club).
The film reunites viewers with the young wizard maestro and his friends after the battle with the terrifying Voldermort which concluded the previous film. Branded a liar by the wizarding world, and tormented by Hogwarts latest staff member Dolores Umbridge (played perfectly by Imelda Staunton) Harry has to rely solely on his friends and his own self-belief.
Meanwhile, renegade members of the school, including all Harrys friends, have joined a resistance group under the leadership of the deity-like Dumbledore, called The Order of the Phoenix. As Hogwart’s stiff-upper-lip English discipline collapses into a tyrannical regime, Harrys acute resentment of the suspicion and condescension of those around him erupts into a mighty battle at the Ministry of Magic between Dumbledores Order and Voldemorts Death-Eaters, where both good and evil suffer mortal casualties.
While many may choose to disregard Harry Potter due to its stereotyping as a childrens film, Yates has managed to add enough touches to keep even the most cynical viewer entranced.
Using the subdued, green tinted cinematography that is now synonymous with Fight Club, Yates creates a threatening feel, cold and claustrophobic to articulate the lonely state of the principle character. Every scene is muted so that nothing cheering or hopeful diminishes the sombre mood of the lead-up to potential Armageddon. We are given a dystopian view, a premonition of how the world would be should Voldermort succeed, and it is indeed a desolate place.
Abstract camera work and editing which combines continual fades with strangely random images, a style used to perfection for the video-footage featured in the sinister horror The Ring. Used to relay Harrys potential descent into mental torment, this conveys a frightening feeling of confusion and unrest.
The oppressive dictatorship of the magical government is perfectly articulated by the huge campaign images of the Minister of Magic, a technique famously used in Citizen Kane to express the autonomy of Kane himself. One cannot help associating the film with todays political climate, where no one seems to know who to trust, and political leaders are so present in the media that Blair and Bushs faces seem to look down from every television set across the country.
In terms of acting, the film is what youd expect from a piece that relies on young actors. The three principles will appeal to any young viewers brave enough to watch the film, while pros like Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon and Gary Oldman provide performances that are masterful without overshadowing their younger companions, something they could so easily do.
Over all, The Order of the Phoenix is an interesting look into how family film does not have to rely solely on cutesy humour, and can in fact use its wide appeal to convey an underlying political message or critique.