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Ice Breaker
Intense cold can be just as destructive a force as intense heat. While freezing things solid may not be as pyrotechnically impressive as setting them alight or melting them into puddles, the fact remains that reducing the temperature of an object can have some interesting effects: namely, things that were once soft and pliable (like the human body) or rigid and impenetrable (like steel bars) turn brittle and hence easy to break.

In fiction, this miraculous ability of cold to turn rubber balls into shrapnel bombs is, naturally, turned Up to Eleven. Simply encasing a thing in ice or freezing it to the point that frost forms on the surface is often treated as enough to make steel bars shatter with a dramatic kick. In reality, you'd need several minutes of exposure to liquid nitrogen to achieve such a result, and touching anything that cold with bare skin would probably leave you in need of a new appendage or two. (In fact, many science class demonstrations with liquid nitrogen involve freezing a banana, then using it to hammer in a nail...the exact opposite effect of what is shown on the movie screen.)

Sometimes, this is an aversion of Harmless Freezing. Other times, a person frozen solid will be completely fine if they're thawed out, but until that happens they're vulnerable to shattering at the slightest jolt.

See also An Ice Person and Evil Is Deathly Cold.

Not to be confused with the hacking tool from Deus Ex. Or with any slang about dating. Or that brand of gum. Or those big ships used to clear paths for other ships in the northern oceans.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • In Ranma 1/2, the Phoenix King Saffron's only weakness is cold. When Ranma stabs his arm with the freezing weapon Gekkaja, half of Saffron's body is frozen solid, and then his own weapon, the Kinjakan, breaks through and shatters said arm, setting him free just before the Gekkaja could turn all of him into ice. Later, Ranma turns the Gekkaja on himself to avoid death from Saffron's mountain-vaporizing heat ray, and Saffron nearly breaks him in half with the Kinjakan. The battle finally ends when Ranma, still half-frozen, delivers an attack so unbelievably cold it breaks even the ice left on his fist and instantly freezes and shatters Saffron like so much glass.
    • A comedic version of the trope occurred much earlier in the series, when Ranma contracts a super-powerful cold that keeps mutating throughout the story. At one point, Ranma is so cold he can sneeze freezing wind at Happosai, encasing him in ice and handily breaking him apart with a mallet.
  • In Saint Seiya, foes hit with Cygnus Hyoga's Diamond Dust or Aurora Execution tend to fall to pieces unless they are recurring characters. His master, Aquarius Camus, can do the same.
  • Negima!'s Evangeline A K McDowell has a few spells that fit this trope.
  • In Bleach, this tends to happen to Rukia Kuchiki's enemies when she freezes them, through oddly doesn't happen when Toshiro Hitsugaya freezes them.

Film
  • In Batman & Robin, BINO (Bane In Name Only) slams a wall of reinforced steel with both fists but is unable to break it. All it takes is for Mr. Freeze to use his suit to freeze the water pipes and thus freeze the wall, thus making it easier to bust out.
    • Actually, freezing the pipes is pretty destructive by itself. In some comic he destroyed a wall that way. And steel does get surprisingly brittle if it gets cold enough.
  • Probably the best-known example of the trope in action: in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the nigh-invulnerable T-1000 is splashed with a tanker-full of liquid nitrogen. Its liquid metal matrix steadily freezes over until it starts shattering simply by trying to move around, until it's frozen completely solid. Then, it only takes a bullet to shatter the whole construct into itty, bitty pieces. Shame they did it in the vicinity of molten metal... A deleted scene showed that the T-1000 was still affected afterwards by its cold spell, with its mimic ability glitching and out of control, even copying the floor it was walking on.
    • This scene was parodied in Hot Shots! Part Deux by President Benson freezing Saddam Hussein (and his little dog, too!) with, uh, a fire extinguisher. Wait, what?
      • Truth in Television, sort of. CO2 fire extinguishers contain liquid carbon dioxide (kept liquid via high pressure), which smothers a fire by displacing oxygen, and discourages re-ignition via cooling. The cooling is due to both evaporative effects as the liquid reverts to gas as it leaves the nozzle, and by rapid expansion (the same physical effects are at the heart of air conditioners and refrigerators). The blast from a CO2 fire extinguisher is so cold that the discharge is like a dry-ice snowblower, and users can suffer serious "cold burns" if they hold the wrong part of the fire extinguisher while it is in use.
  • At one point in The Sorcerer's Apprentice, when Balthazar is immobilized by bent metal piping, he escapes by magically supercooling the bits that were holding him and snapping them off.
  • In Pacific Rim, Gipsy Danger does this by venting its coolant onto a Kaiju's tail, freezing it solid and breaking it off.
  • In Jason X, Jason puts a woman's face into liquid nitrogen, freezing it, and then smashing her face onto the table.
  • The film Demolition Man ends with John Spartan kicking off the head of Wesley Snipes character after being flash frozen with a suitable Bond One-Liner.

Literature
  • The Dresden Files: in Changes Harry, after becoming the Winter Knight, covers a vampire's arm with ice, then snaps it in half. Possibly justified in that the cold is magical.

Live-Action TV
  • MacGyver did this in one episode where he was locked in a freezer. However it worked because MacGyver had gotten water to freeze in the lock. Since water is one of the few chemical that expands when it freezes, it broke the lock as it froze.
  • Confirmed by the Mythbusters: liquid nitrogen can make locks significantly easier to physically destroy. Of course, the equipment required makes freezing locks anything but subtle. Busted, however, in the case of dunking someone's head in liquid nitrogen for a few seconds and then shattering it against a table (as per the movie Jason X): as demonstrated with an artificial head analogue, the trauma would obviously be fatal, but the result as depicted would be impossible to achieve, even if the victim's head were submerged in liquid nitrogen for several minutes.
  • The episode When Justice Fails of RoboCop: The Series is full of this as it's centered around a cryonicatics/fuel company. First Robo's legs get's frozen and he breaks it attempting to pursue the criminal. Later he gets completely frozen in about 3 seconds but thankfully just before he's shattered into pieces he uses a plug to warm himself up (again in seconds). Then criminal slips on the ice right into a stream of liquid nitrogen freezing solid and breaking into pieces when something hits him.

Toys

Video Games
  • A subtrope of this is when a character becomes frozen, only to shatter the ice seconds later by flexing his or her muscles. Spark Mandrill of Mega Man X'' does this every time.
    • So does Samus in Metroid Prime, if she gets attacked by an ice-based weapon.
  • Duke Nukem 3D lets you do this to enemies: Frozen enemies will shatter into shards no bigger than your fist if kicked or shot, without fail. However, if they have time to thaw they'll still somehow be able to keep fighting with one hit point.
    • Same in Hexen, but there, once an enemy is frozen, it shatters by itself within a few seconds.
  • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker allows you to do this to enemies by hitting them with an Ice Arrow, then slamming them with the Skull Hammer.
    • Darknuts will also exhibit the second type of this trope; they break out almost immediately to prevent you from smashing them. (The key word is almost. You can still kill them with this combo if you act as soon as possible.)
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity does this in a horrifying Mood Whiplash scene. What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?
  • Freeware game ^Exit Fate has a "Freeze" status ailment: Affected characters cannot dodge and will be killed instantly by any physical attack.
    • As does Star Ocean The Last Hope. A few Battle Trophies revolve around doing this to foes.
    • And in Luminous Arc 2, freezing works almost the same way. The only difference is that Frozen characters can't take any action whatsoever.
  • This is one of Sub-Zero's Fatality moves in Mortal Kombat.
    • Oddly, Sub-Zero also subverts this trope. Later games show him fighting with his fists frozen, which apparently makes his punches stronger.
  • The Metroid series has a few variations on this. When using the Ice Beam, a creature not strong enough to survive the shot simply explodes into frozen chunks, while a stronger creature will freeze and can be shattered with a missile. Some take more than one. Other times, a frozen enemy may be used as a stepping stone to reach higher areas, and will not shatter when a 200+ pound suit of armor jumps on top of it.
  • In Diablo 2 any player character with an ice enchanted weapon or ice based spells could destroy enemies like this. Shattering an enemy like this leaves no corpse behind, which is helpful against Nihlathak or Regurgitators, but a hassle for Necromancers and Barbarians, who have skills that consume corpses.
  • In BioShock your ice plasmid does this. Though the damage something takes while frozen is actually separate from their regular health bar...
  • In World of Warcraft frost mages have a talent called Shatter which greatly increases their critical strike chance against frozen targets.
    • Frost death knights also get the "Brittle Bones" talent that causes creatures infected with the frost fever disease to take extra damage. This disease makes their bones easier to break by lowering their temperature and is quite survivable.
  • Sypha in Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse has an ice spell that freezes enemies, who can then be shattered with her staff.
  • One boss in Resident Evil 4 is defeated by knocking over nitrogen tanks and shooting him while he's frozen.
  • Most Final Fantasy games featuring Shiva as a summon will have this — her magic encases enemies in ice; then, with a snap of her fingers, she shatters them to bits. Of course it's only a visual effect. Final Fantasy XII lacks the traditional summons, but Fran has ice-based quickenings, and her "Shatterheart" acts in the same way.
  • Getting hit by or killing a Frostie in Amorphous causes it to explode in an icy explosion. This freezes both you and any glooples caught in it. Getting touched by anything while frozen kills you instantly (thankfully, you can do the same to glooples once you unfreeze).

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang uses water to freeze a lock to let Flopsy free.
    • Justified, as mentioned above, in that water does expand with quite impressive force as it freezes.
  • Xiaolin Showdown also uses this trope. The Xiaolin Warriors and Jack are held in the dungeon. Even Dojo can't escape his cage by growing to his super size. But all it takes is for Omi to freeze the bars, and the warriors easily break free. (Omi is even able to break the bars of Jack's cell with his PINKY!)
  • Subverted in King of the Hill: Peggy tries to demonstrate the "make it brittle by dipping it in liquid nitrogen" part mentioned above on a rose, but apparently didn't hold the thing in long enough, as it easily bends when she tries to break it.
  • In Super Friends, Captain Cold was able to knock a building over by freezing and then punching it.
  • On Totally Spies!, the gadget Ice Queen Perfume/Spray serves as a sprayable Freeze Ray. Need to break something? Spray and shatter!


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