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Delayed Explosion

Stuff Blowing Up in Real Life tends to be sudden and brief. But "sudden and brief" makes for poor television and film, particularly when setting the scene up is something of a money sink. Thus, explosions are inexplicably delayed, slowed down or otherwise manipulated to get the desired effect. The defining characteristic is a delay between the cause of the explosion and the explosion itself. Hovering a finger over the detonator button doesn't qualify. This delay may be a fraction of a second or several minutes. Outrun the Fireball is one incarnation of this trope.

There are several flavours of delayed explosion that the connoisseur can enjoy:

  • Deja vu Delay, where the same explosion is seen several times. This may be from different angles, each segment slightly overlapping, to make it less obvious.
  • Expository Delay, where the explosion is delayed just long enough for the audience to be shown the trigger that causes the explosion.
  • Gag Delay, where the victim or victims have time to think the explosion has been averted before it actually goes off. See also the Rule of Funny.
    • Unintended Delay, in which the perpetrator thinks the explosion has been thwarted and panics a bit before it happens, is usually a sub-type of the above.
  • Polite Delay, where the explosion has the good manners to not erupt out of the top of the lift shaft/burst through the door/steam out of the tunnel until after the characters in the vicinity have leapt to safety.
  • Realistic Delay, where the difference in speed between sound and light is observed and used for dramatic impact. Rare, unless it's a nuke.
  • Shoe-Drop Delay, where the delay is purely so a character can react to the imminent explosion and be noticed doing so, generally while lit by the fires of that same explosion.
  • Staggered Delay, where what should clearly be a number of explosions occurring simultaneously is broken down into stages, in order to give the hero a fighting chance of making to the end of the corridor before the last one goes off. Note that this is specific to situations where the explosives are set off by a single detonator, and not when one explosion triggers another. Contrast the Polite Delay, which is a single, slow-moving explosion, although both can be a form of Outrunning the Fireball.

And of course:

  • Egregious Delay, where there is no discernible reason other than the makers wanting it that way. See also Rule of Cool.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime 

  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, as mentioned, is replete with Egregious Delays but also has plenty of Expository Delays and Shoe-Drop Delays. There's also a couple of deja vu delays in episode 8. Bring your own Kleenex.
  • The Fleija device in Code Geass.
  • Kiddy Grade has a number of Expository Delays, particularly in the spaceship combat scenes.
  • Uchuu Senkan Yamato (Star Blazers), esp. the second season: the Argo/Yamato's main armament beams enter (or sometimes go completely through) the enemy ship at one or more points, then there is a brief interval before the entire ship is ripped apart by explosions.
    • Since the space battles are essentially a metaphor for naval combat, this phenomenon reflects the destruction of the British battlecruisers at Jutland: a flurry of hits, followed by an annihilating explosion an instant later as the flash of the detonation reached the main-armament propellant magazines.
  • Gundam. The entire franchise (and many Real Robot shows thereafter). Mobile suits are Made of Explodium, so you just know they're going to blow up when they're critically damaged, but very often there's a Shoe-Drop Delay so the victim can display an Oh Crap face before his mobile suit explodes. Of course, if the fatally damaged mecha contains a major character, there may well be a full on Egregious Delay to let the character give his dying speech.

    Film 
  • Typically speaking for Hollywood movies and TV production in general, anytime you see a time bomb count down to zero, the explosion will follow exactly three seconds after. This is usually a result of editing techniques in order to establish another shot to properly show the explosion.
  • Jackie Chan's New Police Story has an extreme example of a Staggered Delay
  • Final Destination includes a single Realistic Delay amongst the generally unbelievable escapades.
  • The Death Star in Star Wars.
    • In Attack Of The Clones, there's an example of the "Realistic" delay (i.e. light before sound) - But it's not realistic anyway since there's no sound in space so it's a moot (or is it mute? ;) ) point...
  • Independence Day has several of these.
  • In Pearl Harbor, we see at one point a bomb crash on a building. It doesn't immediately go off, and the guy who was in the building thinks it's a dud. In fact it does detonate a couple of seconds later. Gag Delay or Shoe-Drop Delay? You decide.
    • Could even be a half-hearted attempt at Realistic Delay; detonators of that period could be somewhat persnickety.
    • The Arizona bomb and another it's a dud bomb fixated on the distinct whine of the spinning fuze, which set the precedent for how the bombs were activated.
    • A real life tactic is for bombs to have delayed fuses. This either allows them to penetrate before exploding (most notably used to penetrate armor protection before detonating inside, or to create a bigger hole underground if you are destroying roads or runways.)
      • Additionally, it was actually accurate - the reason the Arizona went up as huge as it did was because the bomb hit the forward magazines. The explosion of the bomb would have caused the shells to explode after a very short delay.
      • In fact, sometimes a set of bombs used in an air raid will use fuses of varying lengths, upwards of several hours, in order to hinder repair attempts and delay a base from resuming operations against you.
  • Parodied in Monsters vs. Aliens. The alien spacecraft's self-destruct countdown reaches zero, but waits until 5 seconds later to actually explode.
  • The Dark Knight has a particularly macabre example of a Gag Delay. When the Joker pushes the button, a few minor explosions happen, but not nearly enough to take down the whole building. The Joker has time to abuse his detonator before the real blast occurs. This is because in real life the explosions were set in separate parts of the building intentionally so that it'd have a domino effect, but Heath Ledger didn't know that was supposed to happen. Whacking the control during the Where's the Kaboom? moment was ad-libbed, and running like hell when the explosions began in earnest was the actor running for his life.
  • One of the Tremors movies mixed the Polite Delay and the Gag Delay. A time bomb gets thrown into Burt's truck full of explosives but no one knows what the time delay is. Cue everyone taking cover as Burt runs past yelling that they have to get farther away.
  • Elf: Buddy is sent to test toys, including a particularly annoying set of "Jack-in-the-Box"s. The last one takes a little extra to pop up, just long enough for Buddy to drop his guard.
  • In the movie The Fury, Gillian - who has telekinesis - realizes Childers is the Big Bad, and when he tries to comfort her after her friend dies (because he had her friend killed), she tells him to "Go to Hell!" and we watch as she uses her telekinetic powers to blow his head off. We see him holding his head in pain as the pressure builds, until he gives a graphic demonstration of the Chunky Salsa Rule from eight different places in the room.

    Live Action TV 
  • NCIS has an episode where there's a bomb in a cabin. Everybody dashes out the door, jumps over the car and hunkers down behind it... and they wait there for what would seem to have been about half an hour or more before it finally blows. It was hilarious.
    • They saw the bomb, but not a counter. It could have been set for a certain time. And given the usual cliche, extremely funny.
  • A first season episode of Chuck has Chuck and Casey scrambling out of Casey's SUV when Chuck recognizes the ringing cellphone in the back seat as an NSA bomb. They have enough time to get clear and for Casey to glare at Chuck for making a mistake before the fireball engulfs the car.
  • Averted in the Made-for-TV film Special Bulletin when a news crew accidentally catches a nuclear explosion. The audience sees the mushroom cloud and immediate blast wave following it.
  • Zone Fighter often has the monsters suffer this after the title hero shoots them with his Meteor Missile Might.
  • Pick an Ultra Series, Super Sentai, Kamen Rider or any Tokusatsu show on the whole. This trope is in full force. Stuff Blowing Up is everywhere, and it all obeys only the Rule of Cool.
  • Several times on Hogan's Heroes, Carter counts down an explosion, "5, 4, 3, 2, 1" and nothing happens. Once, he will then say, "I said 'one'." BOOM!
  • From one of Jeff Dunham's Comedy Central specials, "Spark of Insanity": According to Achmed the Dead Terrorist, suicide bombers sometimes play practical jokes on each other.
    Achmed: RAAAAAAAAA... (beat) What the— (imitates explosion)

    Radio 
Neddie: Can't anyone hear it go off?
Bluebottle: Only idiots.
(Pause)
Neddie: Perhaps it's gone off already. I'll go back and check.
(Kaboom! followed by running feet)
Eccles: 'Ere, what was that big explosion?

    Role-Playing Games 
  • In Dino Attack RPG, loosely inspired by the above example from The Dark Knight, the explosives that the Brickster set up throughout the Dino Island Laboratory did not explode until a few seconds after he pushed the button on his detonator, causing him to panic and start mashing the detonator until they did explode.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Delayed Blast Fireball spell in Dungeons & Dragons. Although technically a time bomb, Delayed Blast Fireball can equally well be used to generate a Shoe-Drop Delay. Its implementation in Baldur's Gate was such that it is most often used just as a regular fireball, but the 'delayed' part turns it into an Expository Delay.
    • Aside from having the ability to delay it, DBF is also more powerful than regular Fireball, as it has a higher level cap. For a sufficiently high-level caster, DBF's maximum damage is twice as high as a regular Fireball.

    Theme Parks 
  • Two former attractions at Universal Studios Florida had an instance of this:
    • In the original ending of the Jaws ride, the boat's skipper would shoot a grenade into the shark's mouth. The shark would then go back underwater, and then there would be a several-second delay before the shark would explode.
    • At the end of Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast, Carl would zap King Goobot with Cosmo's wand. There would then be a brief pause, and then his eggshell would explode.

    Video Games 
  • Time Crisis 3 has enemy guards raiding the boat of the two protagonists, only to see a bomb tick down to zero followed with "Bye!" displayed on the timer.
  • In Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories, there's Adell's final technique, Vulcan Blaze. After beating the crap out of his target at ridiculous speed, he takes the time to strike a dramatic pose before the person in question inexplicably explodes.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, putting the last jewel in its statue causes it to glow. Link prepares for the inevitable explosion...and after several seconds of nothing he lets down his guard. THEN it explodes, blasting Link right into the rising Tower Of The Gods.
  • Attacking red frogs in Spelunky will trigger this in them. As such, due to both this and their unpredictable jumping patterns, they're among the more dangerous beasts to encounter in the game.
  • Xenoblade is one of the many JRPGs to feature cool delayed explosions. Lampshaded in this moment of Monday Morning Mooks
  • As the current page image shows, Super Mario World has an instance of the Gag delay at Roy's castle.
  • Starcraft I: Brood War uses both the Deja Vu Delay and the Realistic Delay in the Protoss campaign's ending cutscene. The massive release of energy caused by the Uraj and Khalis crystals in the Xel'naga pyramid—the power of several nuclear explosions—is shown twice, first in a quick ground-level cut, then again in a more distant cut in midair. The shockwave of sound in the second cut is heard seconds after the bright light of the explosion is seen.
  • Super Bomberman had "dud" bombs, where rarely bombs would fizzle out partway through their fuses and not explode when they were supposed to. If they weren't set off by something else, the bombs would eventually reset themselves with a longer fuse before finally exploding.
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: the bomb explodes a few seconds after the timer runs out, during which it blinks white and makes a different kind of beep. Any defusal attempt in progress, even if the progress bar is within milliseconds of completion, fails.

    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy had a grueling Lampshade Hanging that seemed to last minutes where they showed a house exploding from several angles, repeating each shot several times (including one with Stewie and Brian diving out of the way over and over).
  • Invader Zim had extremely egregious decay in an instance where the explosion was very atypical of most explosions by being really, really slow. It was also glowing green. When it goes off after Dib, who is under a similar time-slowing effect, is hurled into it, it's fairly normal though.
  • In The Smurfs Animated Adaptation of "The Fake Smurf", Hogatha attempts to destroy the Smurfs by sabotaging the bridge with Jokey's "surprises", but instead of the "surprises" going off when she pulled the trigger at the moment the Smurfs were crossing the bridge, they ended up going off when Hogatha herself started crossing the bridge.

    Real Life 
  • The explosives-laden destroyer in the St. Nazarre raid didn't explode until several hours after it was supposed to, serving as a Gag Delay (apparently it went off right as the German commander was mocking the British attempt to ram the docks with a destroyer, doing almost no damage) and a very Impolite Delay (it held off long enough to catch a lot of German souvenir-hunters on deck).
  • More generally, this trope is exactly why "dud" explosives of any kind need to be treated with all due caution.


Cultural Cross-ReferenceUniversal TropesDelivery Not Desired
Defeat Equals ExplosionStuff Blowing UpDunking The Bomb
Defeat Equals ExplosionTropes That Go BOOM!Education Through Pyrotechnics
Big Boo's HauntImageSource/Video GamesDramatic Disappearing Display

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