Adapted from Joseph Heller’s novel, “Catch-22,” the Hulu original series of the same name makes strides to unpack the load that the novel originally carried, just scratching the surface of this perplexing story.
Yossarian is a United States Air Force bombardier in World War II who wants nothing to do with the war. He cannot understand why so many other people whom he has never met before want to kill him. The series follows Yossarian through base camp to the many missions in which he is required to fly in order to be free. This compelling, often frustrating adaption is one that will leave the mind to wonder about the convolution of war.
The cinematography throughout the show neatly encompasses the wonky settings, which are described in the original novel. In addition to unique shooting angles and durations of shots, which seem to stretch on two frames too long, the directors do an impressive job of maintaining the mood. They do this by oversetting the entire production with a sepia-esque filter that makes the production feel grungy and edgy, much like the before-its-time novel counterpart.
The soundtrack of the show also does an enthralling job of maintaining mood. Juxtaposition is created through the use of positive and uplifting jams from the 50s and 60s while absolutely grave and terrifying situations confront the audience, depicting the irony and satire in which all scenes are set.
Perhaps the most methodical and impressive component of the series comes from dialogue. In the novel, “Catch-22,” Heller presents dialogue which is concise, sharp and incredibly confusing. Much like “Who’s on First” by Abbott and Costello, many of the conversations are in defiance of logic and only the protagonist, Yossarian, seems to notice. Anomalies are riddled throughout the show in order to keep Yossarian in the chains of war. The dialogue also provokes questions, which have no answer.
Much of the dialogue represents the confusing reality of war. Directors do a fantastic job of developing character profiles to developing the series through unfiltered, gritty conversations. Characters show their faults through dialogue by trying to apply logic in the illogical realm of active duty where tasks as mundane as standing in a straight line would rationally seem to take the backseat to the life or death situations in which men and women are realistically dealt.
The dialogue helps roll the series along a storyline where character development is a truly difficult thing to depict. After all, a majority of the main characters’ story arcs end in fatalities. However, the subtle development of Yossarian throughout the show did not fall short.
At first the character wants nothing to do with the war, is seemingly indolent and has little connection to the remainder of the characters. As time ensues and the lives of men are lost to the war, Yossarian begins to grow attached to the remaining men. Initially seeing the other men as dominos in a line, with the death of each soldier, Yossarian grows through empathy and acceptance. As he attempts to make all of his missions, Yossarian realizes he won’t ever reach the right number to be dispatched because the number will only rise. Truly encompassing the catch-22, Yossarian is struck with the reality of a life which is controlled by someone or something else.
In a world where life is just as present as death, how do you stay busy enough to keep your mind off the latter? How do you find meaning and resolution to those experiences? The real answer Yossarian discovers is as simple and as complex as, you probably don’t.
Depicted through a glorifying role, actor Christopher Abbott (Yossarian) reminds us of the raw symbolism for the entire second world war that the character was intended to be. The self-proclaimed and seemingly only “sane” character, Yossarian’s tables turn as the war takes lives, dignity and hope from the men. Abbott embraced the sane insanity that is Yossarian, and played the role of a lifetime.
The technicalities of the television adaptation all play into the underlying motifs. A complex reel of impossibly possible scenarios all come together to remind viewers of the horrors that ensued during World War II. It is a dignified adapted series that blends the experience of war at its preceding stages with the shortcomings of the aftermath.
The television adaption visually complements the intricacies of Heller’s original novel. It forces viewers and readers alike to question the values behind war and willingness to enlist into it. It ponders the value of war versus the lives of soldiers all while adding some ridiculous humor.
Not for the lighthearted, this television series does the novel some serious justice. It sheds light on such a dark time in human history while personalizing and humanizing the experience through the extremely likable character Yossarian.
Depression, mischief, distrust and sexual aggression are all factors which key into a much more vivid picture of what the men and women of World War II experienced. It sheds light on the day-to-day intricacies of life in a battlefield and just how far some had to go to stay alive for another day, all while questioning the purpose of the entire ordeal.