Early reviews for George Clooney‘s Catch-22 series were released on Wednesday.
And critics have shared their initial thoughts on the six-part military tale, which is based on the 1961 novel by Joseph Heller.
In the early reviews journalists predominantly commended the adaptation for its new take on the story, and praised lead Christopher Abbott for his ‘impressive’ portrayal of the conflicted bombardier Yossarian.
Powerful: Catch-22’s early reviews released on Wednesday saw critics heap praise on lead Christopher Abbott for his ‘impressive’ performance as they said it ‘works better than it should’
Variety‘s Daniel D’Addario claimed the series ‘works better than it should’ and gave his approval for the show’s decision to move away from the novel’s problematic portrayal, and degrading, of women.
Adding that instead it ‘streamlines as best it can the most verbose of the vignettes and builds out Yossarian,’ the reporter said Christopher’s performance ‘announces the leading-man arrival of a long-simmering talent.’
Heaping praise on the rising star, Daniel continued: ‘Abbott deserves special mention for cracking Yossarian’ as he has a ‘glimmer of a brashness that, we can tell, was already beaten out of him before the story began.’
Pleased: Variety’s Daniel D’Addario claimed the series ‘works better than it should’ and gave his approval for the show’s moving away from the novel’s problematic portrayal of women
The Hollywood Reporter‘s Tim Goodman continued in the same vein, saying that ‘Yossarian has to be verbally nimble in a way that induces laughter while also being able to project fear, despair, traumatic stress and hopelessness’ which is ‘a difficult feat that Abbott manages deftly without going too far toward any extreme.’
Going on to talk about the supporting cast, Tim wrote: ‘With Abbott finding a middle ground of sorts, it frees up the supporting cast to go skilfully over the top.’
While speaking about show writers Luke Davies and David Michôd, he added: ‘Credit Davies and Michod with staying true to the essence of the book, bringing out its idiosyncratic elements and deeper, more serious existentialism without collapsing on itself.
High praise: Collider’s Vinnie Mancuso complimented Christopher for pulling ‘off a bit of an impressive magic trick with his performance’
‘That takes some edits and detours, naturally, but when you’ve got roughly six hours to land a wildly peculiar classic that balances humor and pathos, reaching the “very good” territory is one hell of a feat.’
And Collider‘s Vinnie Mancuso complimented Christopher for pulling ‘off a bit of an impressive magic trick with his performance’, as the actor ‘is fantastic at “is no one else freaking out?” style breakdowns, all wild eyes and clenched fists.’
Though Vinnie goes on to hit out at the show’s issue that its cast ‘are the same shape of white dude who, frankly, all even sort of look alike.’
Catch-22: Early Reviews
Daniel D’Addario – Variety
The new series works better than it should. It elides some of the worst of the novel’s degradation of women, streamlines as best it can the most verbose of the vignettes and builds out Yossarian — played by Christopher Abbott in a performance that announces the leading-man arrival of a long-simmering talent — into a character whose angst we feel. Yet the series, in thrall to and in the shadow of one of the most sharply written novels of its era, never finds a way to live on its own.
Tim Goodman – The Hollywood Reporter
A character like Yossarian has to be verbally nimble in a way that induces laughter while also being able to project fear, despair, traumatic stress and hopelessness, a difficult feat that Abbott manages deftly without going too far toward any extreme.
Vinnie Mancuso – Collider
Abbott pulls off a bit of an impressive magic trick with his performance as YoYo. This is a character that needs to walk a mighty thin line between a handsome straight-man reacting to the strangeness surrounding him and the absurdist comedy glue holding things together. Yossarian almost feels like a classic Twilight Zone character, a man who wakes up one day to find the whole world has gone insane and he’s the only one who’s noticed. Abbot is fantastic at “is no one else freaking out?” style breakdowns, all wild eyes and clenched fists. “We’re afraid of a line on a map,” Yossarian tells a fellow officer, referring to the chart that decides who/where gets bombed. “Do you know what that feels like? To be afraid of a piece of string?”
Ben Travers – IndieWire
“Catch-22” isn’t quite wild enough to join TV’s elite satires or sharp enough to leave a mark as lasting as its source material. But it has its moments, and those moments add up to an entrancing experience. At times, the limited series manages to transcend war, asking its audience to consider the bigger picture: If YoYo is forever destined to risk his life bombing buildings and bridges, what sort of trap are today’s youths enlisted into? Is it patriotism? America? Big business? The everyday monotony of what’s expected vs. what you really want?
Going on to talk about female representation in the film, the reporter adds: ‘Even on a series as genuinely enjoyable as this, it’s hard not to notice that 90% of the female characters are Italian prostitutes.’
IndieWire‘s Ben Travers was less enthused by the series, as he wrote that it wasn’t ‘quite wild enough to join TV’s elite satires or sharp enough to leave a mark as lasting as its source material.’
Admitting that the show ‘has its moments’, Ben praised George for having ‘a good time hamming it up’ as well as Hugh Laurie’s ‘inflated charisma’, but said it was Kyle Chandler who was the ‘supporting stand-out’.
The six-part show adapts Joseph Heller’s seminal anti-war satire, first published in 1961. A film adaptation was previously made in 1970, directed by Mike Nichols and starring Alan Arkin as the besieged bombardier Yossarian.
The Ocean’s 11 star produces the new series, directs the first two episodes and also appears in the show as Lieutenant Scheisskopf.
His supporting role sees him play a tradition-bound officer obsessed with parades and displays of military might over actual combat training.
George was initially going to play the much larger role of Colonel Cathcart, but he bowed out and was replaced by Friday Night Lights’ Kyle Chandler.
Christopher of Girls and The Sinner stars as John Yossarian, a WWII bomber pilot who refuses to ignore the insanity of war.
Catch-22 is set to be released in the United States on Hulu on May 17, 2019, while Channel 4 will air the show in the UK.
Out soon: Catch-22 is set to be released in the United States on Hulu on May 17, 2019, while Channel 4 will air the show in the UK