The flight scenes are plenty harrowing, and the gallows humor of the novel and Mike Nichols movie remains very much intact.
The additional length, though, does as much to muddy the narrative as clarify it. What emerges is a miniseries with a decidedly narrow, episodic feel to it — where an inadvertent act of violence or the promotion given a pilot with the unfortunate name Major Major (Lewis Pullman) stand out, but everything else has a way of blurring together.
The marquee names notwithstanding, Abbott has to really carry the project, and he does so admirably under the circumstances. But Yossarian’s weary demeanor doesn’t make for an especially dynamic protagonist.
To his credit, Clooney has always exhibited ambition as a filmmaker, leveraging his movie-star credentials to pursue passion projects, for good and ill. Taking Heller’s story to TV — and a service like Hulu, eager to cash in on his promotional cachet — surely enhanced his creative latitude.
The overall result, however, is a production that’s intriguing but ultimately as thin as it is handsome, and emotionally removed in a way that dilutes the larger impact. For those reasons and perhaps others, unlike its conflicted hero, “Catch-22” never quite takes off.
“Catch-22” premieres May 17 on Hulu.