Since tomorrow is a holiday in the United States, the blog will be closed for a long weekend. We’ll leave you today with an early Roundtable. In honor of the Fourth of July, our topic this week is all about things that go boom. What are some of your favorite explosions featured in movies?
I’m not sure what my fellow Bonus View contributors will pick in this week’s Roundtable, but hopefully it won’t be anything either created or enhanced with CGI. Yes, I’m old-school when it comes to movie stunts, which is why my choice is the building explosion at the beginning of ‘Lethal Weapon 3‘. In reality, the building was the old Orlando City Hall in Florida, which was scheduled for demolition anyway. The producer of the movie, Joel Silver, paid the city $165,000 for the privilege of blowing it up. Sadly, the rest of ‘Lethal Weapon 3’ didn’t quite live up to that great opening, but what a way to begin a film.
I’ve gotta go with the car chase explosion in ‘21 Jump Street‘. Phil Lord and Chris Miller edited it for perfect comic impact. And of course, there’s that chicken…
I know the movie wasn’t the best in the series. And I know one of the stars is none too popular these days. And I know I’m probably showing my age. But the first thing that comes to my mind is the opening of ‘Lethal Weapon 3‘. Forgetting all the stuff I just mentioned, and the oddity of a cat in a downtown Los Angeles parking garage – and Homicide showing up at a bomb scene – the bickering, mixed with the series’ signature musical rips, culminates with what I at the time thought was the biggest explosion I had ever seen in a movie. That scene made for some good summer fun.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
I’d hammer out a paragraph explaining why ‘Tropic Thunder‘ boasts one of my all-time favorite cinematic explosions, but I’m too busy cackling like an idiot and replaying this clip over and over and over:
Chris Boylan (Big Picture Big Sound)
My favorite explosion occurs in ‘The Fifth Element‘. Zorg plants a bomb on the Flotsam Paradise, expecting it to explode after he escapes with the stones. However, he discovers that the stone case is empty, returns to the space-borne hotel to recover them and stops the bomb with just a few seconds to spare. But alas, the Mangalores have an override on the trigger which resumes the countdown, leading to the destruction of the entire hotel in a fiery explosion that almost – but not quite! – engulfs our escaping heroes.
Also, the Death Star being destroyed in ‘Star Wars‘ is pretty satisfying, before and after the revisionist enhanced visual effects were added. I’m not as big a fan of the second death star explosion in ‘Return of the Jedi’. Not just that it had been done before, but think of all those poor innocent contractors working on the construction of the new station.
If I get to pick a third, then I’ll go with ‘Jaws‘. Chief Brody’s “Smile, you son of a bitch!” followed with the rifle shot that explodes the compressed air tank in the shark’s mouth may be short on actual flames, but it’s long on cathartic satisfaction. It’s a perfect ending to an excellent film.
M. Enois Duarte
My favorite movie explosion is from the ’80s action classic ‘Die Hard‘. Well, technically, there are two absolutely awesome explosions in the movie, but the first one, when McClane straps a block of C4 to an office chair with a computer monitor, still stands as a phenomenal piece of motion picture history, in my opinion. I love that he adds the one extra blasting cap. And his reaction to the firestorm racing up the elevator shaft is priceless.
I still remember my friends and I watching in shock with eyes bulging and jaws on the floor because we had no idea what to expect next, and to this day, when I watch the film around Christmas every year, that scene continues to make me smile.
One movie explosion that I’ve always enjoyed even as the FX involved have aged is the tanker truck towards the end of the ‘The Terminator‘. Reese slides the pipe bomb in the back, and when the lit fuse fires it off, the audience is treated to a multi-stage, multi-angle, multi-shot explosion that borders on satire.
With its near spoof level of replay (it feels like it’s shown three or so times), this could be any pyrotechnic enthusiasts’ dream shot. These days, the angles with Sarah running don’t composite so well, but it’s a terrific explosion that leads into seeing the last vestiges of Arnold melt away as the film’s villain rises from an inferno. It may lack the subtext of ‘Apocalypse Now’, but in terms of the Terminator’s never-stop characteristics, it’s thrilling and somehow believable.
Despite the flack that people give the franchise’s sequels, I’m a pretty huge fan of the head-on semi-truck explosion from ‘The Matrix Reloaded‘. I remember seeing that for the first time and cheering as the two diesels collided in super slow-motion, the bodies of Morpheus and the Keymaker soaring forward as flames and billowing plumes of smoke erupted from the fuel ignition. As the camera spun around the worsening wreckage, I got giddier and giddier. I absolutely love that mostly-CG (I think some of the flames were actual footage), super-stylized, single-take explosion.
I still haven’t seen a movie explosion that tops Sarah Connor’s nightmare of the nuclear firestorm in ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day‘. The movie is packed with other big explosions (the Cyberdyne building detonation is another highlight), but the dream sequence was easily the most visually-realistic depiction of a nuclear holocaust put to film at that time. Even if the effects work may have been topped in the meantime, the image of Connor clutching the chain link fence as the shockwave of flames strips her body of its flesh is still traumatizing.
Honorable mention to the ridiculously silly and fun climax of Brian De Palma’s ‘Mission: Impossible‘ – which features a phallic train plunging into a tunnel where the action builds and builds until exploding in orgasmic release, followed by a moment where it deflates in exhaustion. The flagrantly sexual imagery is hilariously subversive.
Tell us about your favorite movie explosions in the Comments.