Adapting literary works to the screen is inevitably a difficult endeavor, though some books are more conducive to film and television than others. Take for instance Catch-22, Joseph Heller's intricate and complex satire of government bureaucracy and international conflict. Considered one of the best books of all time, its non-linear structure and nearly stream-of-consciousness storytelling have long prevented a successful translation into a visual medium.
A film version of the novel directed by Mike Nichols was released in 1970, but it failed to grab critics or audiences. In 2019, streaming platform Hulu released a six-hour miniseries adaptation of the novel that sticks more closely to the source material. Still, several necessary changes were made to transfer the story between mediums. Here are the major departures from Heller's original novel.
The series finale shows Yossarian being nursed back to health in the Italian countryside. Shortly after, MPs arrive and force him back to the base. There, General Scheisskopf (George Clooney) refuses to send Yossarian home in spite of what he endured, leading to the penultimate incident with Snowden.
After the young man's demise, Yossarian decides to never wear his uniform again and continues - albeit passively - to drop projectiles while disrobed.
In Heller's novel, however, Yossarian receives no respite in the country, and after Snowden's end, he flees to Sweden.
One of the more prominent secondary characters in Hulu's Catch-22 is Nately (Austin Stowell), an "all-American" type whose tragic end weighs heavily on Yossarian. This character is actually a combination of two figures from the book, Nately and Kraft.
The creators chose to merge the characters because, according to writer Luke Davies, "they were serving similar purposes."
Heller based Catch-22 on his own experiences as a bombardier in WWII. He apparently didn't encounter many women, as the novel features very few female characters. Those included are either escorts or nurses, all of whom are objectified throughout the narrative.
While Yossarian develops some semblance of a relationship with Nurse Duckett, he also becomes infatuated with practically every woman he encounters and tends to get handsy without consent.
In the series, Duckett (Tessa Ferrer) serves as a sane confidante for Yossarian rather than an object of romantic pursuit. Moreover, a character from the novel referred to only as "Nately's Wh*re" is named Clarina (Valentina Bellè) in the Hulu adaptation.
Writers Davies and Michôd acknowledged that the novel is "sexist/misogynist" and purposefully expanded the female characters for their adaptation. They also removed all instances of Yossarian's non-consensual advances.
Toward the end of the novel, Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn offer Yossarian an "odious" deal: They will send him home, but only if he always speaks kindly of his superiors and the conflict in general. Yossarian ultimately refuses, not wanting to censor himself and speak falsehoods.
In the series, Cathcart - and Korn, to an extent - instead offer to send Yossarian home if he swears never to speak of an incident in Rome, in which Aarfy (Rafi Gavron) violated and slayed a housekeeper.
Despite his utter horror over Aarfy's actions and subsequent apathy towards them, Yossarian accepts the deal. General Scheisskopf (George Clooney) intervenes, though, overriding their agreement.