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Delayed Explosion

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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.
    • An inverted variant is the Linear Bomb: when the ground is traced by some Wave-Motion Gun, the explosion happens on the entire line simultaneously after a short delay, instead of following the ray. This does not help anyone to Outrun the Fireball (except in some video games), and is only for the Rule of Cool. See Sweeping Laser Explosion for specific examples.

And of course:

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


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Linear Bomb version is ubiquitous in anime, one of the most famous examples is God Warior firing in Nausicań of the Valley of the Wind.
  • AKIRA had a Brick Joke example near the beginning, where an extremist tries to set off a grenade in a police station only to have it fizzle out. As the main characters are walking away from the building minutes later, an explosion comes from said station.
  • 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. Quickly killing off a Mauve Shirt with barely an Oh, Crap! is a good way to show that War Is Hell.
    • When Kycilia dies in the original Mobile Suit Gundam via rocket launcher direct hit, there's a bizarre form of Shoe-Drop Delay where the projectile managed to obliterate the target's head and keep sailing past them before exploding (whether from a timer or hitting a wall).
  • Kiddy Grade has a number of Expository Delays, particularly in the spaceship combat scenes.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Your Name has one of the Realistic variety: when the comet fragment strikes Itomori, there is a brief delay before the sound of the impact is heard.

    Film — Animation 
  • Parodied in Monsters vs. Aliens. The alien spacecraft's self-destruct countdown reaches zero, but waits until 5 seconds later to actually explode.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls ľ Friendship Games: When Midnight Sparkle begins her attack on the Canterlot High grounds by shooting a magic beam at the Wondercolt statue, said statue is covered in several flashes of light before finally exploding as a dimensional portal forms inside of it.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • A Bridge Too Far. American paratroopers are running towards a seemingly undefended bridge when the Germans blow it up in their faces. Everyone dives for cover, but afterwards their officer advances cautiously to see if there's anything left. Two more charges go off, soaking him in river water. His response is an understandably bitter "Shit!"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Final Destination includes a single Realistic Delay amongst the generally unbelievable escapades.
  • 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.
  • When Gamora's pod gets blown up in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), we see the scene twice in short succession: first from Nebula's POV and then again in close-up.
  • Hot Dogs for Gauguin: A gag delay. Adrian's bomb to blow up the head of the Statue of Liberty (its Played for Laughs and It Makes Sense in Context) is supposed to go off exactly at 12, so he can snap a picture. The Time Bomb strikes 12 and nothing happens. A puzzled Adrian is tweaking the wires on the time bomb when his friend Fletcher breaks through the door, Adrian accidentally knocks over the tripod, and the bomb goes off. Adrian doesn't get his picture.
  • Independence Day has several of these.
  • Jingle All the Way has the postal worker claim that there's a bomb in the package he's carrying in a desperate attempt to ward off police. After he flees the building (leaving said package behind), it actually goes off.
  • Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen has this happening after the night raid on the Japanese barracks. One of the resistance leaders asks another, where he hid his explosives, which his comrade replies, "Up there." The leader is about to ask what did he mean by "up there" when he's interrupted by five Japanese guard towers exploding, all at the same time, which takes out around half the enemy camp in a few seconds.
  • Jackie Chan's New Police Story has an extreme example of a Staggered Delay.
  • 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.
    • A similar bomb also hit the U.S.S. Arizona, though the sailors have even less time to react before the detonator triggers and breaks the battleship in half.
  • 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.
  • The Death Star in Star Wars: A New Hope.
    • 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...
  • Tremors 2: Aftershocks 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.
  • Undercover vs. Undercover ends with the hero, Hsiao-wu, staring down the main villain and his legion of mooks. Hsiao-wu then reveals he had the detonator to a series of bombs attached to the ship where the climax is set, and triggers it. Nothing happens. Until five seconds later.
    Big Bad: Huh, I knew you were kidding. Do you need some explosives?
    (Cue a MASSIVE explosion in the middle of the freighter, destroying much of the vessel's middle portion, killing plenty of mooks and leading to a Post-Defeat Explosion Chain where five more explosions of equally huge size start wrecking the freighter)
  • Gag Delay version in Welcome to Dongmakgol. The Mexican Standoff between North and South Korean soldiers ends when one of the NK soldiers accidentally drops his grenade. SK Lt. Pyo goes Jumping on a Grenade but it doesn't explode. Pyo gives his NK counterpart Lee a look of withering contempt and chucks the grenade aimlessly over his shoulder, into the storehouse—where it explodes, wrecking the storehouse.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Charmed: The first few times Piper tried to blow up demons, there was usually a small delay before it actually happened. As she got better at using it, it became almost instantaneous.
  • 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.
  • 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)
  • 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!
  • 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. Hilarious.
  • Pick an Ultra Series, Super Sentai, Kamen Rider or any Toku show on the whole. This trope is in full force. Stuff Blowing Up is everywhere, and it all obeys only the Rule of Cool.
  • Vienna Blood: Gag Delay. At the end of "The Devil's Kiss", Max has thrown the terrorist's bomb into a stream. Nothing happens. The Austrian minister says "This is so embarrassing," then turns to his Russian counterpart and says "I do apologize—", and then the bomb explodes.
  • Zone Fighter often has the monsters suffer this after the title hero shoots them with his Meteor Missile Might.

  • The Goon Show and silent TNT:
    Neddie: Can't anyone hear it go off?
    Bluebottle: Only idiots.
    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?

  • 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 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The delayed blast fireball spell. 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, the spell is more powerful than a regular fireball, as it has a higher level cap and can potentially do twice as much damage.
    • Orange dragons, an obscure breed from older editions, are sometimes known as "sodium dragons" due to their Breath Weapon — they spray a line of chemical goop covered in saliva, then two rounds later, that saliva evaporates and exposes the chemicals (i.e. sodium) to the air or water, resulting in an explosion. Since orange dragons are evil and sadistic creatures, this is mainly Shoe-Drop Delay, as they delight in ambushing passers-by, spraying them with their breath, and then retreating to watch their victims explode.

    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 
  • While it isn't explosion-based, The Binding of Isaac has the Brimstone and Anti Gravity combination.
  • Black Mesa features a realistically delayed explosion during a setpiece where two Harrier jets perform a bombing run on a distant bunker. The explosion isn't audible until several seconds after it actually occurs.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Matrix: Path of Neo has a expository delay with the Det. packs in the sewer, except you don't see Neo press the button unless the camera is in the right place.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Similar to Invader Zim below, Sunless Skies has an extremely egregious delay in the form of a hugely slowed down explosion in the narrative, specifically when you decide to bomb the Hour refinery in Lustrum. Since Hours are raw time and you hid the bomb in a barrel full of them, the explosion takes a damned long time to happen, and even the people that were right next to the blast simply walk away, avoiding all casualties. But since no one can stop the explosion the refinery is completely ruined, and everyone in Lustrum who hates the Windward Company (which is almost everyone not working there) spends the afternoon watching the fireball sloooowly wreck everything.
  • 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.
  • A Running Gag in Super Mario World is Mario destroying the castle he clears by stepping on a dynamite switch and blowing up the castle, with seemingly random success. At one point,note  as depicted in the page image above, Mario steps on the plunger and the fuse seems to break right before it hits the castle. Mario goes to inspect it... and then the castle blows up, resulting in an Ash Face for Mario.
  • 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.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 1 is one of the many JRPGs to feature cool delayed explosions. Lampshaded in this moment of Monday Morning Mooks

    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 has extremely egregious decay in an instance where the explosion is very atypical of most explosions by being really, really slow. It is 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 (1981) 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.
  • Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner: Wile E. Coyote often falls victim to this. If an explosion doesn't happen instantly, it'll delay just long enough to catch him instead of the Road Runner.

    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.
  • The heavily armored Japanese carrier Taiho was hit by a single torpedo from the submarine USS Albacore. It did relatively little immediate damage, aside from splitting open a tank of aviation fuel. All that heavy armor, designed to keep explosive shells out, also kept fuel vapor in. Six and a half hours later...


Video Example(s):


Delayed Castle Explosion

In "Mario and Yoshi's Adventure Land", Mario sends Luigi to check why the castle hasn't blown up after pressing the switch.

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Main / DelayedExplosion

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