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Artistic License Explosives

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Explosions are cool, really cool. So cool, in fact, that it's easy to forget that things don't just explode in the way you want them to. They are governed by physics just as everything else in the real world.

But why let that get in the way of the story? If you make it spectacular enough, people will be too awestruck by the explosion to break their Willing Suspension of Disbelief because of it.

Sub-Trope of Artistic License Physics. If the explosions are nuclear (or antimatter), you might also run into Artistic License Nuclear Physics.


  • Ash Face: Instead of terrible burns and having skin ripped open by shrapnel, victims of a Non Fatal Explosion are simply covered in soot and may have some hair singed off.
  • Bomb Disposal: If you find a bomb, do not attempt to disarm it like they do in television. Bomb disposal is a profession for a reason, and you're likely to set it off! Call emergency services and leave it to the professionals.
  • Bombproof Appliance: While it is true that appliances will at least somewhat shield you, and any cover is better than none, fiction takes this way too far.
  • Concussion Frags: Not all grenades are equal.
  • Contain the Kaboom: Trying to contain an explosion of indeterminate force is likely to get you killed or deeply injured. Why do you think it's a bad choice to ever hold a firecracker?
  • Eat the Bomb: Even Jumping on a Grenade is a safer and more efficient way to make a Heroic Sacrifice
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Imagine the safety hazards if every car crash resulted in an explosion.
  • Everything Makes a Mushroom: To make a mushroom cloud, you need an explosion which generates a lot of heat compared to the atmosphere around it - but the shape is distinctive, so fiction writers play fast and loose with what creates it.
  • Exploding Barrels: While true that barrels of fuel can explode, it requires very specific circumstances to do so, not to mention it's dependent on what you shoot it with.
  • Explosions in Space: Explosions act differently in a weightless vacuum and don't quite have the same visual effect you'd see from an explosion on Earth.
  • Explosive Cigar: If this doesn't end in injury/death, it's playing fast and loose with explosions.
  • Explosive Instrumentation: No, your computer is not going to start sparking just because excess power is routed to it. Failsafe in its components will kick in quickly, shutting the thing down instead.
  • Explosive Stupidity: This trope is the reason that explosives are not just handed to the average joe schmuck - and if it is played for laughs, then you are squarely in the realm of artistic license.
  • Flamethrower Backfire: See Shoot the Fuel Tank and Exploding Barrels
  • Hair-Trigger Explosive: While examples do exist (Just check the Real Life section), many modern explosives are specifically designed to only explode when intended. C4, TNT, and Dynamite won't just explode by being dropped.
  • Incredibly Obvious Bomb: Don't assume that bombs are always obvious. This is why airports, subways, and the like constantly blare warnings about 'unattended baggage', rather than 'anything that looks like a bomb'.
  • Impressive Pyrotechnics: It is seldom that explosions produce Hollywood-style fireballs.
  • Made of Explodium: Explosions are an exact science requiring very specific circumstances to be achieved. Not so in fiction - just about anything explodes there.
  • Non-Fatal Explosions: Explosions, by definition, are things expanding rapidly, such things create pressure, and changes in pressure destroys things. That's the entire point of the explosion in the first place. If an explosion is non-lethal it is either exceedingly weak and localised, or you are far enough away to be safe.
  • Outrun the Fireball: The pressure wave of explosions, especially in confined spaces, move at a pace that's more than supersonic. Unless you are in a fighter jet or have one hell of a head start, you're not going to outrun it. Even if you don't aim to outrun the explosion, and will settle for the fireball, you are still looking at velocities in the 100 meters/second range.
  • Relocating the Explosion: Instead of worrying about relocating the explosion, worry about relocating yourself and anyone in the vicinity.
  • Ridiculously Potent Explosive: Size matters, you can only pack so much explosive power into so small a package in the real world. But why let that stop you?
  • Rocket Jump: In the real world, any explosion powerful enough to propel you upward would be powerful enough to kill you.
  • Shoot the Fuel Tank: MythBusters proved that it takes ridiculously specific circumstances and ammunition for this to get any sort of fireball.
  • Strapped to a Rocket: Most straps wouldn't survive the forces necessary to launch a rocket. And the acceleration of the rocket would exert forces on your body more than sufficient to kill you, long before the rocket exploded/hit something.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Explosions are far less visually impressive than often depicted in media - but that undermines the core concept of using them as spectacle
  • Throw Down the Bomblet: Explosives are specialist weapons for specific uses. Using them for any other means invoke Awesome, but Impractical.
  • Unflinching Walk: While it is standard procedure for those who work with timed explosives to walk not run away after setting the charges, so as to not risk tripping and injuring their leg while still inside the blast zone, the way it's shown in media more often than not leaves the walker still inside the blast zone with debris raining down around them.
  • Wire Dilemma: It is a rare bomb in real life that has accesible wires, it's an even rarer bomb that has differently coloured wires, and it's even rarer bomb for which cutting a wire won't immediately cause it to explode. Thus, we reiterate: don't start defusing bombs and get the hell out of dodge instead!

Examples that don't fit into any of the above.

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Alternative Title(s): Artistic Licence Explosives


"The Explosion waits quietly"

In the film Steel, a Mook tosses a grenade into a room that Shaq and his friend are locked in.... but it does not go off. The two have a short conversation where the friend teaches Shaq how to throw, And they throw it back to the mook where it finally goes off. As the Nostalgia Critic points out, grenades should not take this long to explode and shows a more realistic outcome of the scene.(In Real Life, hand grenades detonate in 5 seconds AT MOST).

How well does it match the trope?

4.2 (10 votes)

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