Time Warner (NYSE:TWX)/Warner Bros.' Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, scheduled to be released on May 6, 2016, seems to get more crowded every week.

Although the project initially focused on Superman and Batman, the lineup now includes Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor, Cyborg, Aquaman, and possibly even Nightwing. The confirmed cast includes Henry Cavill as Superman, Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, Ray Fisher as Cyborg, and Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor.


Source: Warner Bros.

Rumors have circulated that Jason Momoa, best known as Khal Drogo from Game of Thrones, will play Aquaman. Callan Mulvey, who was last seen as a member of SHIELD in Disney (NYSE:DIS)/Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, has also been cast in a role rumored to be the Joker. To top all of that off, the Flash could make a cameo, although it's unclear if Grant Gustin, who plays the character on the small screen, will be cast.

Put all of those characters together and you get one of two things -- the most epic live action clash of DC superheroes and supervillains on the big screen to date, or a disastrous supernova that wipes out the fledgling "DC Cinematic Universe." I think the latter could occur for three major reasons.

1. Too many heroes and villains
Let's first take a look at what Time Warner did in the past with Batman. The four films between 1989 to 1997 progressed in this manner:



Batman Returns

Batman Forever

Batman & Robin




Batman, Robin

Batman, Robin, Batgirl

Main villain(s)


Penguin, Catwoman

Riddler, Two-Face

Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Bane

Rotten Tomatoes





Source: Rotten Tomatoes.


Source: Warner Bros.

We can see the same trend with Sony's first Spider-Man trilogy between 2002 and 2007:



Spider-Man 2

Spider-Man 3





Main villain(s)

Green Goblin

Dr. Octopus

New Goblin, Venom, Sandman

Rotten Tomatoes




Source: Rotten Tomatoes.

Both Batman and Spider-Man stalled out after those final films, forcing a reboot of both franchises.

More recently, Sony tossed Electro, Green Goblin, and Rhino together in the 142-minute long battle royale known as The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Yet more characters did not generate greater returns -- The Amazing Spider-Man 2 actually earned less globally ($702 million) than the original film ($758 million), and fared worse with critics (73% vs. 53% at Rotten Tomatoes).

The key problem is that since studios believe that sequels always must be bigger than their predecessors, franchises often burn out within three or four films. If Dawn of Justice is as crowded as reports suggest, it could ruin the series and crush Warner's dreams of creating a DC Cinematic Universe to rival Marvel's.

2 .Time Warner lacks Disney's patience
Disney's The Avengers was a crowded movie that worked for a simple reason -- all the main heroes and villains had previously been introduced in less crowded films.

Time Warner wants to do the exact opposite. None of the new characters in Dawn of Justice, except for Superman, has a back story yet. Ben Affleck's Batman will not be a continuation of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight version. Wonder Woman hasn't appeared in live action form since the 1970s, except for a brief appearance in an abandoned NBC pilot in 2011. Non-comic book readers are probably even less familiar with Cyborg, Nightwing, and Aquaman.


Nightwing, Cyborg, and Aquaman. Source: DC Comics.

When Disney and Marvel were building up the Marvel Cinematic Universe, solo Avenger films made plenty of money. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Disney's latest solo Marvel film, grossed $710 million worldwide on a budget of $170 million. Before that, Thor: The Dark World grossed $645 million on a budget of $170 million.

In the DC Cinematic Universe, not a single new DC film will arrive before Dawn of Justice in 2016. Therefore, it would make sense for Warner to develop new films for less well-known characters like Aquaman, Nightwing, and Cyborg first, and emphasize their connections to Man of Steel for marketing purposes. It would also be a smart financial move, since The Hobbit -- Warner's only annual film franchise -- concludes this December.

Warner clearly thought that the $1.5 billion that Disney grossed from The Avengers in 2012 would be a great haul for a single film. However, Warner apparently overlooked the fact that Marvel's five previous films played huge roles in promoting that single film.

3. Questionable creative decisions
Last but not least, Warner is putting too much faith in Man of Steel writer David S. Goyer and director Zack Snyder.

Goyer, a comic book writer, can be exceptional when paired with the right director (Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy) but abysmal when paired with the wrong one (Neveldine/Taylor's Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance). Goyer's writing for Man of Steel was solid, but Zack Snyder's over-the-top green screen explosions and chaos turned the film into a joyless, loud affair akin to his earlier films 300 and Sucker Punch.


Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch. Source: Warner Bros.

As a result, the critical response for Man of Steel was mixed, earning a 56% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Critics derided it as "endless violence" devoid of "humor and joy." Therefore, it's odd that Warner has handed over the reins of the DC Cinematic Universe to Snyder and Goyer, especially after Disney and Marvel demonstrated repeatedly that comic book films work best when darkness is balanced out with a dash of wit and humor.

The Foolish takeaway
Last but not least, it doesn't help that Warner plans to release Dawn of Justice on the same day as Disney's Captain America 3 on May 6, 2016.

Warner stands to lose a lot more than Disney in this game of box office chicken. Captain America 3 is the 13th installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Dawn of Justice will only be the second film for DC. Moreover, if Dawn of Justice bombs, future solo films for Batman, Wonder Woman, and other characters could be jeopardized as well.

What do you think, fellow comic book film fans? Will Dawn of Justice crumble under the weight of too many heroes and villains, or will it be a disciplined, well-executed hit like Fox's X-Men: Days of Future Past?

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Leo Sun owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.