Man, do you have to bring everything back to SLIDERS? ;-)
Anyway, some more thoughts on studio tinkering which may or may not relate to what happened with JUSTICE LEAGUE: I was reading one of the many drafts of SPECTRE, the last James Bond movie. SPECTRE is a note-perfect example of how the studio process of tinkering with a script as it's being filmed is not constructive.
The SPECTRE released to theatres starts well: Bond's investigating a mysterious organization, Spectre, that may have compromised his organization. There's a gripping sequence where Bond infiltrates a Spectre meeting and the mysterious leader knows of him already, identifies him on sight and greets him by name. Bond barely escapes.
Then there's a confusing revelation where Bond finds a ring worn by members of this organization. This ring indicates through confusing exposition that the villains of the previous three films were part of this organization -- a strange retcon as none of these past villains wore these rings.
There's a limp romance with a doctor whose father worked for Spectre, then a middle-of-the-story confrontation where Bond gets to Spectre's secret base and confronts the Spectre leader, Blofeld, who is (a) a new version of the 60s Bond villain and (b) Bond's foster brother in this continuity.
Blofeld takes credit for the previous three movies' villains, but it's unclear how those films tied into Blofeld's goals of infiltrating all government intelligence assets. At no point does the film use Bond and Blofeld's shared past and history for conflict or drama. It's so inessential; it might as well not be there.
Blofeld straps Bond into a torture chair that Bond escapes through means I don't understand. Bond blows up the entire secret base through a method that I don't understand. I've watched this sequence 10 - 15 times. There's then a lifeless climax in London where Blofeld attacks Bond's headquarters and escapes in a helicopter and Bond, pursuing the helicopter on a boat, shoots down the distant helicopter with a pistol (?!?!?) and arrests Blofeld before walking away with his boring girlfriend.
It's very odd. Reading an earlier SPECTRE shooting script, however, explains a lot of what the hell is going on here (at least creatively if not within the story of the movie). As originally written, the Blofeld character wasn't Blofeld; he was Franz Oberhauser (which Blofeld uses as an alias in the final film). Sony wasn't happy with this.
Looking at the changes, it seems they stipulated that Oberhauser be rewritten into the Blofeld, the world domination pursuing mastermind of the 60s movies with Sean Connery. Sony had only recently acquired the rights to use the Blofeld and Spectre concepts. Spectre was already in the script, but Sony wanted Blofeld too.
Sony could have simply renamed the Oberhauser character as Blofeld. But Sony also wanted Oberhauser's villainy to reflect the extravagant, exaggerated aspects of the 60s Blofeld and these additions don't mesh well with the script around them.
In the script, all the connections to the previous films were much more low-key. The script indicates that Oberhauser employed the villains of previous Bond films on his own projects for financial management, for acquiring resources, for technical design -- but the final film overinflates this to Oberhauser nonsensically claiming responsibility for every evil plot in the last three Bond films. It's not supported by the previous films and it falls flat. The story was better when the connections were low key.
The script also has a very tight focus on the Bond/Oberhauser conflict as foster brothers. Oberhauser and Bond were both adopted; Oberhauser was jealous that Bond seemed to monopolize their foster father's love. Oberhauser has spent his life watching Bond from a distance, spying on our master spy, obsessing over Bond. Oberhauser represents all of Bond's sociopathy and cruelty at a permanent extreme point.
This also ties into the Bond girl of this movie, Madelaine. The script has a few extra lines about how she rejected her father for his disregard for human life; it's why she became a doctor, it's why she rejects Bond. And the script has Bond defeating Oberhauser and in doing so, conquering his own demons and winning Madelaine's confidence.
As scripted, the first confrontation between Bond and Oberhauser has them playing cards for each other's lives and recalling their childhood rivalry, presenting Oberhauser as a jealous, murderous evil twin. Sony replaced this with Bond in the torture chair because the 60s Blofeld used deathtraps.
The torture chair scene also replaces the scripted sequence where Bond spots all the gas lines in the secret base and works out how to trigger a chain reaction to blow it up. In the finished film, Bond seems to fire his gun randomly and the base obediently explodes for him.
The finished film doesn't show Blofeld's lifelong jealousy of Bond, doesn't show how Blofeld has modelled himself on Bond. It was all in the script. It didn't make it to screen.
I can sort of understand why Sony didn't think this was a big deal. They were simply giving their villain a different name and tweaking the sequence of tormenting Bond. They were making their film more reminiscent of the source material. But the underlying theme of the script as written: Oberhauser was a dark mirror image of Bond.
The 60s Blofeld character is an evil genius manipulator, aloof and distant from the action, a contrast to Bond as a man of action. This character is not a mirror image of Bond. By making Oberhauser more like the 60s Blofeld, Sony obliterated his relevance to Bond and also removed Madelaine's purpose as representing the humanity that both Bond and his brother had discarded. That's why the Bond/Madelaine onscreen romance had no heat, no tension and no passion. It was on the page, but Sony mislaid it.
The final act of SPECTRE as released, despite being mostly unchanged from the script, feels completely detached from the rest of the movie. It worked in the script. But in the movie, Blofeld's attack on Bond's headquarters no longer relates to their relationship as brothers.
There are little revisions which aren't a big deal. Some of Bond's scripted action scenes have been redistributed to Moneypenny and M and Q. The sequence of Bond shooting down Blofeld's helicopter with a pistol, as presented on paper, has Bond discovering he only has three bullets and he has to aim carefully and make it count, which at least acknowledges the unlikelihood on display.
Throughout SPECTRE, Sony kept tweaking the Blofeld character to make him bigger and more important to reflect the source material. Sony executives were up in arms over Blofeld/Oberhauser not being evil enough, his plan not being epic enough. They were concerned that the Oberhauser villain didn't live up to the Blofeld name. But their revisions didn't make Oberhauser/Blofeld a stronger villain; they only diluted the arc they already had.
The third act of SPECTRE that Sony kept trying to 'fix' went from being taut and tense to laboured on the page to disconnected and perfunctory because the conflict between brothers was no longer in the movie.
SPECTRE needed to either be the story of Bond facing his evil twin or Bond facing a master manipulator. Sony had the first one. They tried to hammer it into being the second and the result was a confused mess. Sony should have commissioned a new script written from the start to feature the 60s evil genius instead of the evil twin version. But filming had started and Sony couldn't stop.
In that case, Sony should have left the SPECTRE script alone and let the filmmakers elevate the story above any of its flaws through performance, visual spectacle, editing and pacing. Instead, they kept trying to retrofit Oberhauser's personal, intimate villainy into the classic Blofeld, but Oberhauser didn't need to be the classic Blofeld to be an effective character. They kept trying to fix what wasn't broken and they broke it.