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Where's the Kaboom?

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"Where's the kaboom? There was supposed to be an Earth-Shattering Kaboom!"

The good guys have set up a bomb that they plan to use to destroy the Evil Overlord's whole fortress. They get safely outside the blast radius, evading a wave of Mooks, and The Hero holds the detonator high so the Big Bad can see, ready to take out the entire pursuing Legion of Doom, and...

Click... Click... Click-Click-Click...

Nothing. The detonator has failed at the worst possible time, leading someone to have to go back and activate the explosive/device manually. Or worse, the enemy simply dismantled the bombs or jammed the detonator before the bombs could be set off, and gets to rub the hero's face in it. Usually Played for Drama rather than comedy. One exception is in cartoons, where the bomber themself will inevitably go back to check, and have it explode (harmlessly) in their face. This trope may be followed by a Delayed Explosion.

This is the trope you really want to invoke when a Land Mine Goes "Click!".


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Ah! My Goddess Movie. Toward the end, a giant bullet FIRED FROM HEAVEN impacts the earth, creating a massive bubble/magic explosion effect. The soundtrack? Empty.
  • Used in a particularly epic scene in the 2003 Astro Boy anime. Rainbow Parakeet has planted bombs all over the robot revolutionary Blue Knight's sanctuary and is about to press the button on the detonator, taunting Astro that the only way to stop him is to kill him and prove he's just as ruthless as Blue Knight. Astro opens fire on him and apparently misses. Cue maniacal laughter as the villain presses the button. Click, click, click. Turns out Astro decided to Take a Third Option and was actually firing at the communications antenna that would relay the remote detonator's signal.
  • Demonstrated in Dance in the Vampire Bund. When Histerica tried to blackmail Mina scattering minions with implanted cell-phone-activated bombs throughout Tokyo's subway system, Mina maneuvered her inside a building she had effectively converted one big Faraday Cage, blocking the cellphone signal. The muscle Histerica had with her being able to set themselves off with their own phones was a complication though.
  • Played for drama in Dragon Ball Z. Android 16 attempts a Taking You with Me Heroic Sacrifice against Perfect Cell by setting off the bomb inside himself (which in theory would have been powerful enough to destroy Cell, though Cell bragged that such a weapon wouldn't kill him anyway). Only to realize moments later that he doesn't have a bomb anymore — Bulma and her father had removed it while they were repairing him since they didn't trust him with it. Cell promptly destroys the defenseless 16.
  • In The End of Evangelion, Ritsuko plots her revenge against Gendo by reprogramming the MAGI supercomputers to trigger NERV HQ's self-destruct sequence on her command. When Ritsuko then confronts Gendo by explaining the details of her revenge to him and tries to trigger said self-destruct, nothing happens, as the MAGI rejects the command. This wasn't so much a technical issue as the AI playing favorites.
  • Played with in FAKE: during a hostage crisis, Dee bluffs the bad guys by telling them a retractable ballpoint pen is the detonator for a bomb hidden in the character's base. When he clicks the pen, his bluff seems to have been called — but then the bomb, which Ryo had previously set for 10 pm, goes off as scheduled.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya has a humorous one of these in the island episode; a firework fails to go off and Kyon sticks his head over it, trying see what's wrong. He nearly gets his face toasted when it finally launches its payload.
  • Played for tragedy in Heroman. Joey's father died when he tried to blast a passage clear for his fellow trapped miners. When the dynamite failed to detonate, he went to check what was wrong, and found out that faulty wiring caused a delay of a few secon— BOOM!
  • In Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Diamond Is Unbreakable, Yoshikage Kira when he first encounters and fights Stray Cat decides to end the fight quickly by attaching a bomb to a small pebble and putting it near the cat. He summons Killer Queen, who makes its "CLICK!" from miming the detonator switch that should make the pebble and the creature explode, and...nothing happens aside from Stray Cat idly staring and touching the pebble. Kira is left confused and Killer Queen repeatedly clicks the "detonator", but still no explosion. It's then shortly after revealed that Stray Cat instinctively used its power to create a void of air around itself in which the bomb couldn't go off, and then it idly swipes the pebble away from itself and out of the air void upon which it explodes to no effect.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Duo Maxwell fails to self-detonate when he's surrounded by enemies because the button doesn't work. The circumstances surrounding Quatre's self-detonation earlier suggest this was because Duo's Gundam refused to let him die with it.
  • A sad version happens in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. Jerrid's given instructions to detonate a capsule that is said to contain a bomb in it if anyone gets near it while Emma attempts negotiations with the AEUG (re: unknowingly giving them a note telling them to surrender the captured Gundam Mk. II or said capsule would explode). When Kamille races out with the Mk.II to get the capsule, Jerrid takes aim and fires, destroying the capsule and promptly freaks out as to why it didn't explode and take out the fragile Mk.II. There was no bomb. In the capsule was Kamille's mother.
  • Saiyuki. Fortunately for the heroes, Hakkai had removed the explosives Yaone set to blow them all up, because 'I'm sorry, I found them earlier and thought they were dangerous'.
  • Near the climax of Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai, Vearn has set Black Core bombs all over the Surface World, with the intent of destroying it. They are the fantasy equivalent of nuclear bombs and even the denizens of the Underworld, where it came from, fear using it. They can be frozen to stop detonation, but Vearn has placed so many all over the world that if one still works, they all go off. He is assured in his victory that it would be impossible for everyone to coordinate in time to stop the chain reaction, even after Gomechan's last wish told everyone about the bombs. Then when the time comes... nothing happens.
    Vearn: The explosion... Where's the explosion?!

    Comic Books 
  • Tintin:
    • In the book Cigars of the Pharaoh, Thompson and Thomson hastily abandon the ship they are on when Snowy accidentally drops a grenade from a crate full of them. We then learn the grenade was not actually armed... and we see T&T a safe distance away, wondering what's taking the grenade so long. A few panels later, we see that they spent the whole night waiting for it to go off.note 
      Thom(p)son: Must be on a timer.
    • In Destination Moon, Captain Haddock puts a firecracker under Calculus's chair in an attempt to shock him out of his Easy Amnesia. He and Tintin wait outside for a while, but don't hear it go off. Captain Haddock, thinking that the fuse has gone out, goes back in to see what happened. Tintin tries to warn him that it's still smoking, but it's too late. The explosion covers Captain Haddock in soot, but leaves Calculus completely unfazed.

    Fan Works 
  • A particularly sadistic version appears in Fallout: Equestria - Project Horizons. When triggered, a booby-trapped jack-in-the-box springs open and drops three grenades. The grenades are duds; the real bomb is the jack-in-the-box itself, which explodes several seconds after the expected grenade blast.
  • In the One Piece fanfic This Bites!, the Straw Hats rig an enemy ship to explode during a wedding. Cross triggers the detonation after putting on his usual Large Ham show, only for nothing to happen as he keeps trying the detonator.
    Soundbite: Oscar-worthy performance, Ledger.

    Films Animation 
  • In Monsters vs. Aliens, the count-down on the Self-Destruct Mechanism of Gallaxhar's ship turns out to be a little off.
    Computer: 3... 2... 1... [beat] Hmm, maybe my count was w— [BOOM!]
  • Involving walking the plank happens in Peter Pan. Out of sight of the pirates, Pan rescues Wendy before she hits the water, and a Captain Obvious crewman remarks that there was no splash. Captain Hook seems annoyed at the insistence that there must be a splash when someone walks the plank, so he throws said crewman overboard to create one.
    Hook: So, you want a splash, Mr. Starkey? I'LL GIVE YA A SPLASH!

    Films Live-Action 
  • Played for Laughs in 21 Jump Street when Schmidt and Jenko find themselves in a high speed chase, running away from some drug dealers on motorcycles. Firstly, a biker falls off his bike, and his bike impacts a truck carrying numerous propane tanks, which fall onto the street and breach. Jenko and Schmidt both brace themselves for an explosion but it never happens, much to their confusion. A second time during the chase, another biker fires blindly into the fuel tank of a gasoline truck, before falling off, and the gas on the street ignites. Once again Jenko and Schmidt brace themselves for an explosion, which never happens, much to their confusion. A third time, another biker falls off his bike, and his bike impacts a truck carrying a bunch of chickens... which explodes... much to Jenko and Schmidt's confusion.
  • In The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, Boris and Natasha attempt to blast Rocky, Bullwinkle, and Karen with a cannon, but fortunately, Karen is Genre Savvy enough to put out the fuse when their backs are turned.
    Boris and Natasha: Where is boom?
  • Happens in Blade II, with the bomb/leash that Blade put on the head of his vampire ally.
  • Blazing Saddles. The heroes plan to blow up the fake town of Rock Ridge with explosives, but the detonator fails. The Waco Kid has to set off the dynamite by shooting it with a revolver, at a range that would be a challenge to a sniper with a scope mounted rifle.
  • In the World War II movie The Bridge at Remagen, the Germans are all set to blow up the bridge the Allies are just crossing. Unfortunately for the Nazis, they used cheap explosives that weren't capable of bringing the thing down. In Real Life, as told below, they were sabotaged by the Polish engineers who were forced to place them.
  • Also A Bridge Too Far about the same incident. The Germans hit the plunger to blow up the bridge just as the allied tanks are crossing it, only for them not to go off due to a malfunction or the lines being cut. However an earlier bridge blows up right in the face of the US paratroopers advancing towards it. Their commander can only respond, "Ah Shit!"
  • Subverted in the film The Bridge on the River Kwai, where the detonator works just fine, the problem is that Colonel Nicholson betrays the Allied troops trying to blow up the bridge, causing them to be killed before they can activate it. After he finally realizes his treason he sets it off as he dies...although it's deliberately ambiguous as to whether Nicholson is trying to reach the detonator or just falls on it accidentally.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy:
    • The famous hospital-demolition scene from The Dark Knight in which the Joker attempts to do an Unflinching Walk to the getaway bus while the hospital implodes behind him, which turns into black comedy when midway through, the explosions suddenly stop. Joker flings up his arms and fiddles around with the detonator (including a little Percussive Maintenance) for a few seconds until he's startled by the explosions resuming and high-tails it out of there. (Contrary to popular rumor, the "malfunction" was intentional and rehearsed ahead of time — its purpose was to make sure Ledger was a safe distance from the building before the real fireworks began.)
    • Turned against the Joker in the climax with the bomb-strapped passenger ferries. When Joker has Batman pinned with the midnight deadline for one ferry to blow up the other about to occur, he gleefully tells Batman, "We don't want to miss the fireworks. And here...we...go." However, both ferries refused to carry out Joker's demand, causing visible confusion on Joker's face at the lack of an explosion. He even turns around to look at a clock, and when he sees the clock has surpassed midnight, he is visibly shocked that his social experiment failed.
    • Played straight in The Dark Knight Rises, when Commissioner Gordon disrupts the radio detonator as Miranda Tate reveals herself to be Talia Al Ghul and attempts to destroy Gotham City.
  • In The Dukes of Hazzard film, Sheev and the Dukes need to crack a safe, so they cover it in C4 and try to blow it up. The fuse fails to set if off, so they're left with a safe covered in potentially dangerous C4. Luke solves the problem by shooting a flaming arrow at the safe, creating an impressive explosion.
  • The Fifth Element subverts this nicely. After planting a bomb to evacuate the cruise ship, Zorg stops the countdown himself with only five seconds to spare — only to have his former underlings arm their bomb, right next to him, on a five second timer.
  • Also subverted in the film Force 10 from Navarone where the explosives go off but it seems like they have failed to do anything. Mallory and Barnsby curse Miller (the explosives expert) as they walk away but then the dam starts to shake and the cracks grow larger until it finally collapses. Turns out it's the pressure of several million tons of water against the now-damaged dam that does the work, not the explosion.
  • In Galaxy Quest, the ship's self-destruct counts down to 1 second and stops, because that's what always happened on the TV show.
  • Help!: The Mad Scientist hands a curling stone with an explosive charge into a game. When it's seen to be 'a fiendish thingie' everyone scatters...and the ticking stone clicks to a stop. The scientist fumes "Useless. Ex-army rubbish - I can't get the equipment!" and it explodes before he can finish talking.
  • Hot Dogs for Gauguin: Adrian is a frustrated photographer who hatches a demented plot to blow up the head of the Statue of Liberty, just so he can get a picture. (It's Played for Laughs.) As his friend Fletcher races to stop him, Adrian watches the Time Bomb clock timer hit 12 noon—and nothing happens. He taps the clock and checks the wiring and is still trying to figure out what went wrong when Fletcher bursts through the door onto the roof and the bomb goes off.
  • Hot Fuzz: Offercer Angel finds an old farmer has a massive arsenal of weapons on his property, including a sea mine of all things. When he insists that the collection is too dangerous to keep, the farmer smacks the sea mine to demonstrate it's just a hunk of junk, which causes an ominous ticking to come from the mine. Everyone runs out of the barn and hits the dirt... but there's no explosion. Angel is calling back to the station to let them know the sea mine isn't live while the farmer and Danny are both kicking the mine in the background. At the end of the film, the last surviving member of the conspiracy stumbles into the mine, one of the spikes depresses, triggering the detonation and destroying part of the police station.
  • Hudson Hawk. A paralyzed Hawk and Five-Tone manage to regain control of their limbs, and trip Snickers as he is firing sticky bombs around the apartment. The golf bag he is using to hold the launcher slips away from him, hits a wall, and fires a bomb directly onto his forehead. As the countdown reaches zero, the bomb does nothing, and Snickers remarks hopefully, "Maybe it was a dud." Hawk and Five-Tone perform a delayed Oh, Crap! out the window as seconds later, Snickers' head is blown apart.
  • It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World — Melville, trapped with his wife in a hardware store basement, lights a long fuse on a small charge of dynamite on a door. The fuse goes out halfway, but ignites a crate of fireworks. Wondering why it hasn't gone off, Melville breaks cover at just the wrong time.
  • In the Norwegian film The Last Lieutenant (1993), the eponymous character comes out of retirement to fight against Hitler's invasion, but the regular army soldiers mock this old man in his obsolete uniform. They're sent to blow up a bridge, but the detonators fail to explode. The old man proves his bravery by walking out onto the bridge and setting the charges off manually.
  • Used for comedic/suspenseful effect in the 2001 remake of Ocean's Eleven: Danny and Linus are reduced to doing this when they try to blow the charges inside the vault door, which is actually a good thing, as Yen is currently stuck near the door and struggling to get free. Doubles as an Ironic Echo when Linus repeats with only light ribbing what Danny told him earlier about focus.
    Linus: You know, you lose focus in this game for one second...
    Danny: I know, and somebody gets hurt. You don't hear Yen complaining.note 
  • In Pearl Harbor:
    • The Japanese bomb that falls through the Arizona's mess decks lands in the ammo magazine below, giving one of the cooks time to look down the hole and then back up like "Wow, that was close." Then, its timer stops and it detonates all the ammo in the compartment, effectively blowing the ship in two.
    • During the raid, the pilots are trying to setup the 50 cal anti-aircraft gun. Another bomb skitters across the flight line and the guys duck for cover. When it stops near the AA gun, it sits there as a small propeller start to spin. Just as one of the pilots pops up and declares, "It's a dud! It's a (blam)."
  • The Quiller Memorandum (film and novel). Quiller finds a bomb tucked under his car, rigged to detonate as it hits the ground when Quiller drives off. Because he's under surveillance and wants to fake his death, Quiller places the bomb on the hood and starts the engine, hoping the vibrations will make it slide down the hood and fall off. However nothing happens after a while and Quiller worries that the bomb has become stuck; he's going to check when the garage blows up in his face.
  • In Tremors 2: Aftershocks, Burt's explosive-laden truck is set to explode and take out the Shriekers, but the heroes don't have a very good handle on how long it was set for. Eventually one of them complains about the delay... and the bomb obliges.
  • Uncommon Valor: The team's strategy to attack the prison camp requires that a bridge be blown up to cut off reinforcements. The detonation caps fail, forcing Blaster to make a Heroic Sacrifice to manually explode the bombs.
  • In We Are from the Future 2 four men are participating in the re-enactment of a World War 2 battle when they accidentally disturb a 70+ year old unexploded bomb which detonates right in their faces. They survive but are thrown back in time to 1943, shortly before the original battle is about to begin. They end up fighting a Last Stand against the attacking Germans. A bomb lands in their midst but does not explode. They then realize that they have just completed a Stable Time Loop and the bomb will sit there unexploded for the next 70+ years, waiting for them to find it and accidentally cause it to explode.

  • Artemis Fowl: In book 4, The Opal Deception, there's an interesting variation. Part of the Big Bad's plan is two explosive devices (one to do the job and one as a backup), which she had on her ship. The heroes send a guy to break into their ship and take the bombs. She assumes that this means that they've taken them on their ship, and tries to detonate them. Problem is, they didn't. They actually hid the bombs on her own ship, in the ship's smuggler's box (a small compartment shielded from all forms of detection). The detonation signal couldn't reach the bombs as long as they were there, resulting in no kaboom. They then goad her into opening the box, allowing the detonation signals to reach the bombs. The kaboom follows shortly afterwards.
  • In Cain's Last Stand the heroes attempt to collapse a shrine containing an immensely powerful Artefact of Doom rather than let it fall into the hands of Necrons. Alas, Necrons have advanced enough means to simply jam their signal and take the artifact.
  • At the end of the Doctor Who book Shining Darkness, the protagonists set off a bomb hidden in one of their (robotic) members to destroy the Cult of Shining Darkness and their space station. The cult members teleport away but the bomb's countdown can't be stopped and the protagonists can't get out before the bomb's countdown reaches zero. They are very surprised when there is no kaboom, at which point the Doctor reveals that he surreptitiously removed the bomb earlier and the cult members, not knowing what it was, confiscated it when they took him captive. Meanwhile, on the ship the cult evacuated to, a strange object they took from the Doctor has started flashing and they have no idea what it me-
  • In For Whom the Bell Tolls, Pablo throws the detonators into a river, forcing one of the other guerillas to die while manually setting them off (Heroic Sacrifice).
  • In Terry Brooks' Gypsy Morph, this occurs when the heroes try to destroy a bridge and slow the advancing army. One of the characters raced down into the ravine and fixed the problem in a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Subverted in Hogfather: the wizards of Unseen University are making the Ultimate Hideous Hangover Cure by mixing in every cure they can think of. Finally, Ridcully prepares to add a bunch of Wow-Wow Sauce (Which was used in a previous book as an explosive), sending the other wizards diving for cover. When Ridcully dumps the stuff in, nothing happens, but just as Ridcully is berating the other wizards for their lack of backbone, the mixture lets off a fireball that sends the Archchancellor tumbling. Luckily, wizards are naturally-padded, so no serious harm.
  • In the Alan Dean Foster novel Quozl, a group of an alien settler dissident on Earth and some sympathetic humans face this situation when their expedition comrade, whom the ruling council insisted on accompanying them, reveals her bomb and her orders to blow herself up to kill the dissident and his human friends. With a maximum of drama, the agent hits the detonation button, but nothing happens. The dissident then reveals he discovered the bomb and disarmed it some time ago. It's pointed out though that had he sided with the agent, they'd all have been atomized.
  • Wet Desert: Tracking Down a Terrorist on the Colorado River: For an instant, the bomber thinks that the bombing has gone wrong when the explosion does not immediately manifest.
  • In World War Z, the Indian government is evacuating all surviving citizens into the Himalayas to escape the Zombie Apocalypse. Unfortunately, the last bridge to blow before the safe zone is closed off has defective explosives. Between two problems — the possibility of the Indian Air Force nuking the area (and making the situation worse) and allowing zombies into the safe zone — General Raj-Singh detonates the charges by hand in a Heroic Sacrifice that probably saved everyone left in India.

    Live-Action TV 
  • On The 100, the Grounder/Sky People alliance has a one minute window to set off the bomb they planted at Mount Weather's front gate, otherwise they'll never get the door open. Unfortunately, Mount Weather jams the signal from the remote detonator, and the guys who try to detonate it manually are shot down before they can get close. It takes Lincoln shooting the bomb with a flaming arrow to save the day.
  • In the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, two soldiers have a mortar round land in their foxhole and... smoke a little bit. The two are, understandably, quite shaken up.
  • Blake's 7. In "Sarcophagus", the crew retrieve an alien artifact from a Ghost Ship. Suddenly the artifact starts to glow, the computer Orac is demanding to be disconnected from it, telekinetic energy sends objects flying around the room, everyone dives for cover...only for the artifact to collapse in on itself and disintegrate. Unknown to them however, it's released an Energy Being who proceeds to take over the ship.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Sontaran Stratagem": The Doctor and a UNIT soldier are trapped in a car with an autopilot ready to dump them into a river. The Doctor confuses the autopilot, and both leap out of the car waiting for the whole thing to blow up ... and the device simply shuts down with a fizzle.
      The Doctor: [disappointed] Oh, is that it?
    • "The Stolen Earth"/"Journey's End":
      • In the mid-story cliffhanger, the Doctor is shot by a Dalek and begins to regenerate. The second episode opens with the Doctor managing to avoid fully regenerating by channeling the excess energy into his spare hand, resulting in this reaction from Jack and Rose (especially so in her case as she's seen the Doctor regenerate before) in the form of a confused "huh?" Donna, meanwhile is even more confused as she had no idea what was supposed to happen in the first place.
      • At the climax, the Doctor and his companions watch in horror as Davros laughs gleefully as the Reality Bomb counts down to 1... and then nothing happens because Donna, having become part-Time Lord, stopped it while everyone thought she was knocked out.
    • "Thin Ice": Lord Sutcliffe attempts to set off the explosives that will destroy the ice and send people on the frozen Thames down to be fed to the giant serpent imprisoned underwater and nothing happens. He's not pleased. It turns out that the Doctor moved the explosives underwater so they would destroy the serpent's chains, thus freeing it.
  • Hogan's Heroes had a few instances when they would set a bomb and Carter (the team's munitions expert) would count down the explosion "5, 4, 3, 2, 1" and nothing would happen. He'd then say "I said 1!", and the bomb would go off.
  • In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Mac and Charlie try to fake their deaths by blowing up a car. First they run it into a wall, but it doesn't explode. Then they go to a pawn shop and buy a gun and a grenade. They toss the grenade into the car expecting a mammoth explosion, but it releases little more than a puff of smoke. Thoroughly disappointed, Mac does some poppers and tries shooting the gas tank, but even that does nothing. They ultimately give up, reasoning that the damage is enough to convince everyone that they were vaporized.
  • An early episode of M*A*S*H had the camp being shelled when a bomb lands in the middle of the camp and fails to detonate.
    Stay down!
    Stay down? Either something that was supposed to happen didn't, or something that didn't is gonna.
    And if it does, down is gonna be up!
  • MythBusters:
    • They were testing a very small amount of explosive, and nothing happened. Subversion of the trope similar to The Bridge at Remagen when it was discovered that the explosion had occurred, but out of concern they had put too many sandbags on top of it to detect the event visually.
    • Another case happened when Kari, Grant and Tori were setting off explosives in a quarry to create a wave... and silence. The bomb squad then spends several tense minutes carefully fishing the tons of live explosives out of the lake to find the problem. A similar situation has happened to Jamie and Adam at least once. This is one of the most dangerous malfunctions a bomb squad can encounter because of the chance of a delayed explosion while someone is investigating the problem.
    • Heck, this trope seems to be invoked in at least half of the myths where an explosion is called for. Most of the time it's played straight (as with the surfing myth above), to the point that the phrase "Ah, Houston, we have a problem" has become something of a Running Gag. However, at least two times this trope has been subverted. In one case, an underwater detonation was not energetic enough to be noticed on the surface at all. ("Sorry, Houston, we don't have a problem.") In that particular episode, it's later played straight, with a callback to the earlier subversion. ("Ah, again. This time we really do have a problem.")
    • Not to mention the bit with the Hindenburg skin with Thermite paste, where it seemed to not ignite until their backs were turned, only to suddenly BURST into flames.
    • In some other myths, they use a backup explosion in case the myth-related one still has a chance of going off unexpectedly.
    • The episode on Thermite vs Ice has this happen on thermite fuse. It gets really antsy since they have to put in another fuse while the first one may still go off, resulting in Jamie needing to put on protective gear in order to approach the thermite.
    • Yet another example: when they tested a myth involving a liquid-nitrogen-cooled bomb taking longer to go off, the frozen bomb didn't go off at all, and they had to wait for it to melt before trying to set it off again.
  • In Red Dwarf, the self-destruct is accidentally triggered by Lister ordering a chocolate bar. They do everything possible to deactivate it, even transferring the mind of one of the crew into Lister so she can give the abort code. Nothing doing. It reaches zero... and it dispenses the bar. Turns out Holly removed it.
  • In Stag, Mex steps on the trigger of a land mine at the dam and gives a tearful, revelatory last speech before finally stepping off it. Nothing happens. Until he dances around in joy and sets off the other land mine.
  • Stargate SG-1 has a few examples:
    • "Family" Has one of the more bizarre examples, when Teal'c's brainwashed son tried to set off a hyper-toxic chemical bomb hidden in a pair of fake teeth by clacking his jaws together. Nothing happens, because the heroes had already noticed his deadly teeth and replaced them with harmless ones.
    • In "Point of No Return", Martin notices that the device he stole from Tanner is counting down, everybody assumes there's a bomb in the facility and makes their dramatic escape. When nothing happens, there's a few seconds of awkward silence and it's revealed the countdown was actually for the self-destruct of Martin's escape pod, several miles away.
    • In the Season 9 premier, the team and Bra'tac successfully use the ring transporters to send a bomb to an Ori mothership. After several seconds nothing happens, and they note the bomb should have gone off by now. No definite reason for why is ever given, but a subsequent episode (see below) suggests a Prior used his powers to stop it from detonating.
    • In "Counterstrike", the team is exploring a seemingly abandoned Ori mothership and they put C4 in various key places in case they have to destroy it. Later they realize they do have to destroy it (with them still on board), Mitchell clicks the detonator...and nothing. Cue Adria explaining that she prevented it with her powers.
  • In the Season 2 finale of Star Trek: Voyager, Voyager faces repeated, seemingly inconsequential attacks from the Kazon that, despite the fact that they're being led by former crewmate Seska, only damage the non-essential "secondary command processors". Eventually a full-fledged Kazon ambush, combined with a suicide bombing, cripples the ship and Janeway grimly gives the self-destruct code to prevent their capture. The computer replies that it cannot comply since the secondary command processors are offline, and Janeway realizes exactly why the Kazon kept targeting it over and over again.
  • Voice 2: The suicide bomber in the first episode actually tried to detonate his bomb, but the wires came loose.

  • 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 right away after he pushed the button on his detonator, causing him to panic and start mashing the detonator until they did explode.

    Tabletop Games 
  • At the end of one of the included scenarios in the Promethean: The Created sourcebooks, a Promethean terrorist interrupts an auction by shouting a threat and activating a suitcase nuke. One of the options for the aftermath: the bomb - which is an old Russian model from before the end of the Cold War - fails to do a damn thing. Before its user can do much more than stare at it in horror, the rest of the assembled Prometheans surge in and rip him to shreds.

    Video Games 
  • Played for Drama in the ending of Battlefield 4. The C4 charges planted on Admiral Chang's destroyer fail to explode, so one of your teammates must head back down the zipline to rewire them. Whichever one you send down will die when the charge blows. Alternatively, you can Take a Third Option and refuse to send either of them down... resulting in Chang's warship sinking the USS Valkyrie, killing Captain Garrison and Jin Jie and destroying your best chance of ending the war.
  • How Lance tricks Fritz into looking at the cannon in Brain Dead 13.
  • Happens in Blue Dragon after Kluke ends up with a collar rigged to explode if the team doesn't hurry to Nene to stop it. If the counter does reach zero Kluke runs away to save the others from the bomb. Afterward, the collar ends up being a dud, causing everyone to wonder why it didn't explode.
  • Toward the end of Epic Mickey, Gremlin Gus attempts to launch the fireworks Mickey primed, only to realize that the detonator's batteries are dead. He replaces them in a jiffy, but before launching them, he is grabbed by the Blot.
  • Final Fantasy VIII has a detonator with two buttons. Pressing one of them leads to this trope. Pressing the other forces you to run like hell.
  • Final Fantasy XV Episode Ardyn begins with Ardyn waltzing through the Founder's Day Festival in the Lucian capital of Insomnia. As he reaches a wide-open intersection, he triumphantly declares "Now, let the fireworks begin!" and snaps his fingers over his head. There's an awkward pause as some festival-goers give him looks. A few seconds later, Ifrit the Infernian appears... around a corner, a block to the east.
    Ardyn: Oh dear. [...] Oh, cursed be the wavering whims of the gods.
  • In Guilty Gear, Faust's alternate Instant Kill has his bomb failing to go off, inducing this trope. He then wanders over, and the bomb detonates, giving Faust and his victim Funny Afros.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, this is played for laughs, when Link sets the third pearl into its slot, the statue starts to glow. Link runs for cover, but nothing happens. Confused, he goes back to the statue to check... only for it to blow up in his face, causing him to fly hundreds of yards away, flying right into the wall of the tower that is rising from the ocean, only to fall back into the water hundreds of feet below, and have his boat collect him.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Bomb Arrows won't explode if used in the rain, resulting this happening to the player if they forget to take the weather into account.
  • Fallout 4 has the legendary robots, randomly spawned variants that as well as being stronger will also detonate after being destroyed in a really dangerous blast. The timing of the explosion can be random and unpredictable, taking a long time to go off in very rare circumstances, causing a player waiting for the bomb to wonder where the kaboom went. The same thing happens with cars primed to explode.
  • In Lenny Loosejocks In Space, Lenny has four hours to disarm all of the bombs that Prime Minister Squeegle Queegly had planted. If those four hours are up, it looks the Squeegles have won, and Prime Minister Sqeegle Queegly watches the last 20 seconds count down... only for the timer to reset itself back to four hours. Angered, Prime Minister Sqeegle Queegly demands on where the explosion is. That is when two of his servants tell him that the explosion was affected by a Year 3000 bug, giving Lenny four more hours. Prime Minister Sqeegle Queegly tells his servants to get back to work, and the game continues.
  • Makai Kingdom uses this for one of the Special Attacks of the Bomb weapon: The user throws the time bomb on the victim, which stops halfway through, and as the user comes up to investigate, the countdown starts up again, forcing them to hurriedly dive for cover.
  • Persona 5 Royal adds an All-Out Attack finisher for Futaba where she attempts to detonate a bomb from her Persona, only for it to blow up as soon as she tries to find out what malfunctioned.
  • The "Dud" Bomb attack in Phantom Brave. The user tries to blow their opponent up with the bomb, but it fails to go off. After a Beat, they simply pick up the bomb and start hitting them with it.
  • In an early mission of Red Dead Redemption II, Bill sets up the stolen explosives with Arthur helping him to blow up the tracks to rob a train. The explosives failed to detonate forcing the gang to jump aboard the train.
  • In Resident Evil 4, Salazar is listening into an ear trumpet, wondering about the lack of, rather than a kaboom, "the satisfying sound of one's impalement" after Leon gets dropped into a booby-trap. Also toyed with a bit when he gets a kaboom when Leon, hanging from his belt-mounted grappling hook (amazing how often that thing comes into play!), shoots the other end of the trumpet and causes Salazar to flip his lid.
  • In Sonic Adventure, Eggman finally decides to destroy Station Square with a large missile. After it's launched and disappears over the skyline... nothing happens. Eggman is outraged that the missile was a dud and goes to set up a timed detonation on the crashed missile. Tails has to race Eggman to the missile so he can disarm the explosive.
  • In Star Wars: Republic Commando, there's one level where you have to blow up a bridge on Kashyyyk. The charge used to do so, unfortunately, misfires, requiring you to use other means to destroy it. Boss goes apeshit when this happens.
    Delta Leader: Misfire? Misfire!! Who packed that charge?!
  • Super Mario World featured small cutscenes showing Mario reducing each castle to rubble after beating their respective bosses. The Forest of Illusion castle starts the same way as the basic cutscene, but then has the bomb fizzle out. When Mario (or Luigi) steps closer to inspect what went wrong, it explodes, leaving them frizzled and covered in soot. This is also carried over to an anime adaptation of Super Mario World, where the bomb ends up exploding in Luigi's face.
  • Occasionally in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, bomb items (and Electrode) will fail to explode. In all cases of Electrode doing this, and many cases with the bombs, the explosion will occur unexpectedly a few seconds later. This CAN cause players to die from getting too close after the explosion fails, or it could cause a reaction that looks like this but was actually an attempt at being a Combat Pragmatist, expecting the Kaboom to go off anyway and trying to use the extra time to throw the explosion the other way.
  • In Syphon Filter 2's fourth level, you have to stealthily disarm the C4 charges on a highway bridge that the Agency has rigged to blow. If you get spotted after defusing them, they give the order to blow the bridge, but nothing happens.
  • In the Worms series, if the option for such thing is enabled, there is a chance that you approach a mine, it activates... And instead of an explosion, you get a whiff, then nothing.

    Web Animation 
  • In the DEATH BATTLE! between Deadpool and Big Head, Big Head ends the fight by producing a nuclear bomb to finish off Deadpool's decapitated head. After the countdown on the bomb ticks to detonation, nothing happens. Confused, the Mask taps the side of the bomb, causing it to then explode.
  • At the end of Red vs. Blue, Andy the Smart-Ass Bomb finally blows up as a space ship carrying Tucker's "son" and Chruch's girlfriend zooms off. There isn't an explosion at first, and Grif is horribly disappointed. Just as soon as he looks down, there's a huge boom in the sky, leaving the Reds impressed and Grif demanding it again. Of course, this is a serious insult to the Blues.
  • RWBY: This happens at the end of Volume 5. After rigging bombs across Haven Academy, Adam tries to blow all of it in an attempt at Taking You with Me. After clicking the button, he pauses, confused, then hits it again. No explosions occurred, because Ilia disarmed all of them .

  • Dubious Company's Marty wonders this after imitating the Death Star run and firing a missile barrage up the marines' exhaust pipe. After he autopilots his jet into the pipe the fireworks fly.
  • There was a gag with this in Freefall.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • Happens in this strip. Hob, the demolitions guy, has to rig a quick bomb for a bunch of Amorphs to escape a dome being filled with Amorph nerve gas. It fails due to a bad primer.
      Kevyn: Maybe you've set my expectations too high, Hob. I was anticipating rather more noise.
    • In another instance the current crazy demolitions guy Pi sets up a few armor-piercing proximity charges as trap for tanks. When the explosion doesn't occur as expected, he quotes Marvin the Martian.
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • Happens to Torg in this strip.
    • When he faced Evil Aylee, Torg didn't actually know what the remote detonator would do, but both of them were expecting a Kaboom.
      Aylee: So if you don't hit that button right now, I will!
      Torg: Dude! I've been hitting this button non-stop since you said you took out Bun-bun! But nothing's happening!
      Aylee: Then what, exactly, is that?

    Web Original 
  • In Spider and Web, the spy protagonist's equipment includes explosives, but like the rest of the equipment, your detonator is not always reliable.
  • During Episode 60 Part 1 of Dragon Ball Z Abridged after attempting to self-destruct on Perfect Cell, Android 16 realizes his countdown went into the negatives, as Bulma had previously removed the nuclear device.
    Android 16: Where's the kaboom!? There was supposed to be a Cell-shattering kaboom!

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Subverted in the Ben 10: Omniverse episode "So Long, and Thanks For All the Smoothies"; In it, all sides are fighting over the Anihilargh, a weapon capable of destroying the entire universe if set off. Of course, it goes off, and Ben is forced to use Alien X to recreate the universe (barring some slight changes). Because the universe was recreated to before the Anihilargh went off, everyone minus Ben is confused when the weapon apparently doesn't work, and write the device off as a fake.
  • From the Buzz Lightyear of Star Command episode "The Lightyear Factor", in which Zurg sets off a universe-altering bomb, but no explosion occurs:
    Zurg: That's it?!? Where's my big universe-altering explosion!?
  • In the King of the Hill episode when the Souphanousinphones and the Hills travel to Mexico. Bobby and Connie bought a giant "Labomba!" firework and set it off on a business display, but was a dud after both are waiting for a while hoping it will explode. It remained there through the credits.
  • In the Season 1 finale of Legion of Super-Heroes, Bouncing Boy tries to detonate the bomb to destroy the Sun-Eater, but it fails due to the primary conductor coil being broken on impact. This forces Ferro Lad to go in there and act as a makeshift conductor to trigger the detonation, saving the whole solar system at the cost of his life.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • The Trope Namer is a cartoon entitled "Hare-Way to the Stars", where Marvin, unaware that Bugs took his Explosive Space Modulator, asks "Where's the kaboom? There was supposed to be an Earth-shattering kaboom!"
    • A common occurrence in the Roadrunner cartoons whenever Wile E. Coyote tried using explosives. The detonator (Acme brand, of course), would jam up or refuse to set off the explosives. Naturally, they'd always blow up when he tried to cross the booby-trapped area himself.
  • In The Simpsons episode ''Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming", Bob attempts to detonate a nuclear bomb, only for it to go off with a disappointing fizzle and fall apart, revealing a family of mice and a "best before" date of 1959.
    Bob: (Grumbling to himself) There were plenty of brand-new bombs, but you had to go for that retro '50s charm!
  • In The Smurfs (1981) Animated Adaptation of "The Fake Smurf", Hogatha sets up a sabotage of the Smurf River Bridge by placing Jokey's "surprises" underneath and was hoping they would detonate at the moment the Smurfs cross the bridge, but unfortunately they don't, leaving Hogatha fuming and thinking that a sneaky dishonest Smurf has "sabotaged [her] sabotage". The "surprises" don't go off, however, until Hogatha herself tries to cross the bridge.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog: At the beginning of the Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog episode, "Sonic the Matchmaker", Scratch and Grounder attempt to destroy Sonic with a dynamite stick disguised as a chili dog. Sonic brings the dynamite stick to Robotnik as Scratch and Grounder wonder why they didn't hear an explosion. They are quick to realize that Sonic left with the dynamite stick, but not quick enough to stop Sonic before the dynamite stick explodes in Robotnik's face.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In the episode "Dying for Pie", Squidward is rather disappointed when SpongeBob doesn't explode. "THE PIE YOU ATE WAS A BOMB!!!" He's more aggravated than disappointed, having spent the day doing stuff with SpongeBob to make his last day alive enjoyable. "I spent the whole day with you doing doing all kinds of ridiculous things because you were supposed to explode!!!" It's soon revealed that SpongeBob didn't explode because he never ate the pie, but rather he was saving it to share it with Squidward later. Then he trips and accidentally drops the pie on Squidward's face. THEN the explosion happens.
    Squidward: ...Ow.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Rookies", the plan is to blow up the Rishi Moon outpost so the Republic will be warned about the Separatist invasion fleet. However, there's a problem with the detonator not linking up with the remote, and there's no time to fix it. So Hevy winds up staying behind to set it off manually, which the others don't discover until it's too late.
  • Happens in the debut episode of Wacky Races. Dick Dastardly has Muttley plant explosives at a rock face in order to create a road-blocking avalanche, but when Muttley pushes the plunger, it doesn't go off. Dastardly splutters "Now what went wrong??" Muttley finds the problem: a wire was disconnected, which can be seen before Muttley even gets to the plunger. He reattaches the wire and the explosives go off in Dastardly's face.

    Real Life 
  • The real life version of this trope is a large part of the the reason for the existence of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (as the American military calls them; other countries have the same job under different names). Civilian Bomb Squads also sometimes serve this role in planned situations (see the Mythbusters example above) or as first response until the military can arrive. Although when any of these teams get involved in real life, the primary goal is the protection of others (which usually means a safe detonation that harms no one).
    • An ordnance which is fired in anger but has failed to detonate is called a dud. An ordnance which has been disposed of, lost, abandoned, installed or rigged but has not been fired in anger yet has the detonator on is called an uxo (from Un-eXploded Ordnance). An absolute dud is a nuclear weapon which has failed to detonate: a nuclear weapon which goes off only partially is a fizzle.
  • When a round of ammunition does not go off inside a firearm, this is called a hangfire. Sometimes it will go off within a second, sometimes it can go off within the minute, sometimes it won't go off at all. And you have no idea which it is. The standard procedure is to gently put down the gun facing in a safe direction and wait for it to go off before attempting extraction. This caused a very stressful moment at one Olympics as not only did the pistol not fire, but the gun jammed, leaving a hangfired round half sticking out of the ejection port.
  • Happened many times during World War II.
    • In the final months of WWII the German army was withdrawing across the Rhine. The Ludendorff Bridge, aka The Bridge At Remagen (film of the same name), was the last major bridge left standing. Polish engineers forced to work for the Germans (using prisoners to do important work which is subsequently sabotaged has to be some sort of trope) cut the fuses allowing the Americans to take the bridge (mostly) intact.
    • At the start of the war, German torpedoes were very unreliable. U-56 fired two torpedoes at HMS Nelson which was hosting a conference and had both Churchill and Pound aboard. Both torpedoes hit but failed to explode.
    • American submariners on the Pacific front complained a lot about their torpedoes too. Early U.S. Navy torpedoes were equipped with magnetic detonators that were supposed to detect the change in the magnetic field from being close to the hull of an enemy warship and detonate while underneath it. Since water is not compressible, this would create a massive air bubble underneath the ship, robbing it of structural support and causing the keel to split in half, instead of punching a small hole in the side that could be plugged as would happen in contact detonations. Problem was, instead of detonating under the boat, the torps would blithely continue on their way, without ever detecting the target ship. The Navy had been worried about operational security and cost (as the detonators were quite expensive, given the technology of the time) and as a result, they were not adequately tested before the war and there were, consequently, a LOT of problems. Eventually, magnetic detonators on torpedoes were made both feasible and reliable, and now most torpedoes in the world are equipped with these devices.
    • Aside from torpedoes, the Germans also had an unusually high occurrence of total or partial failure to detonate problems with ordnance in WWII. Many historians think this might have something to do with using somewhat less than enthusiastic workers (i.e. slave labor) in munitions factories.
    • German bomb disposal teams are still digging up and detonating allied ordnance dropped in WW2. Hundreds of tons of bombs simply didn't explode when they hit the ground. Others had time-delayed detonators that failed to go off, these were meant to detonate the bomb hours after the air raid, when civilians and firefighters were moving the rubble, causing further casualties.
    • Even a failure rate of only a percent adds up to a lot of duds when tens of thousands if not millions of rounds are being fired. There's still unexploded WWI ordnance being dug up, let alone WWII.
    • An attempt to assassinate Hitler in early 1943 failed when the bomb on Hitler's plane didn't go off. The cold and unpressurized conditions in the cargo hold apparently caused the detonator to fail.
  • In the Battle of the Crater in the U.S. civil war, the first attempt to blow up the explosives under a Confederate fort failed. Two soldiers volunteered to crawl through the tunnel and see what happened and found that the fuse had gone out at the closest splice to the explosives. They relit the fuse and ran like a bat out of hell.
  • Nuclear bombs (ones using plutonium at any rate- uranium bombs are simpler, but far more expensive to manufacture) are exceptionally delicate; the detonation relies on detonating several hexagonal blocks of C-4 at exactly the same time. If one fails to detonate, the fission material is merely pulverized, rather than forced to undergo fission. Although more modern designs only use 2 explosive lenses rather than than the original 32 (the number of faces of a truncated icosahedron).
  • A terrorist car bomb attack in London in 2007 failed because the bombs were poorly manufactured and didn't detonate. The men involved also tried to launch a suicide attack on Glasgow Airport the following day; the only person killed in the attack was one of the terrorists.
  • A similar plot to bomb Times Square in 2010 failed because the bomb was disabled before it could do any damage.
  • One of the Darwin Awards was awarded to an unlicensed pyrotechnician was killed when an apparently faulty firework blew up in his face when he tried to see what was wrong.
  • During the attack on the Messines Ridge in WWI, the British set up 21 vast mines underneath the German positions. Detonating them simultaneously, they destroyed the German positions atop the ridge and successfully captured it. It was then that they realized only 18 of the bombs had detonated. And then that they realized that the topography of the ridge had been so altered by the blasts that the remaining 3 couldn't be found. If they still had the map. Which they didn't. One of the bombs blew up in the 1950s after being exposed by a storm and hit by a lightning strike, killing a singularly hapless cow. Another has been found under an old man's farm. The other is still unaccounted for...
  • The British historian Richard J. Evans once told a story of a bomb that landed in his grandmother-in-law's bedroom cabinet. It did not explode. When the bomb disposal unit finally cracked it, they found a note inside reading: "Don't worry English, we're with you. Polish workers." Turns out getting enslaved and angry people to build your weapons of war is a silly idea.
  • While much less lethal than a traditional gunpower-based explosive, an Airsoft grenade that fails to detonate as planned is still a rather nerve-wracking experience, because it's essentially the noisy half of a flashbang (at ~130 decibels) that has yet to go off, and which occasionally flings bits of itself every which way when it does finally fail dramatically, just often enough to make walking near one a touchy proposition.
  • We have this to thank for the Columbine High School massacre not being as bad as it could've been. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold's plot called for them to detonate a pair of giant propane tank bombs in the cafeteria, causing it to collapse and take with it the library and faculty lounge on the second floor right above it, killing hundreds of people. They also left similar bombs in their cars, timed to detonate after the police, paramedics, fire department, and reporters had arrived in order to take them out as well. Fortunately, thanks to Harris' lack of finesse at bomb-making (specifically, he screwed up the detonators), the bombs in the cafeteria and in their cars failed to explode. Unfortunately, this still left them with the guns they had brought for what would've been the second phase of their killing spree, allowing them to kill thirteen people and wound twenty-four more before committing suicide. (They also had some Molotov cocktails and homemade "cricket" grenades made with CO2 canisters, which did detonate, but those didn't accomplish anything except to start some nuisance fires.)
  • During the Falklands War, the highly-skilled pilots of the Argentine Air Force may have been able to destroy the British task force, if only the bombs they used weren't set on distance-based fuses that often led to them hitting British ships but not exploding.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Where Is The Kaboom, Detonation Failure


Dial M For Merger

The contestants use Harold's belt and a grapple hook to escape from an explosion. It was revealed to be a fake-out due to budget cuts, and it caused Harold to wet himself.

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Example of:

Main / CuttingCorners

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