Battle Discretion Shot
And then, at the absolute climactic height of the action sequence, everything went dark.
—"Fangs of Endearment: A Vampire Novel" by Dave Barry
It's finally arrived; the climactic moment where good meets evil, where right fights wrong, where...someone will get their ass kicked! But then, suddenly, the camera decides not to focus on the great battle, but rather on something a little more insignificant, like the pool or some other innocent area, with only the sound of the battle heard (perhaps somewhat muffled) and perhaps the occasional Screen Shake, especially in animated media. Focusing on the faces of observing characters gives a good gauge of the brutality of the fight without showing the fight itself; zooming out farther without reducing the battle noise is a less common variant, but still not too rare in comedies. It stays this way for the entire fight, only showing the aftermath.
There are a variety of reasons for this. The first is money: the producers might not have had enough money to actually film an epic battle. This might lead to an Offscreen Moment of Awesome. On the other hand, if they care enough, they could combine this with the second reason: artistic quality. A big fight scene might not be that interesting or original - but deliberately not showing the fight, instead focusing on something mundane, that could be considered art. But beware: this could lead to What Do You Mean Its Not Symbolic There's also a third reason: perhaps the director did want a really violent and/or bloody battle, but the Moral Guardians objected too much. Or, if it's a cartoon, it could be due to the Rule of Funny. Often, these are shown either through a Big Ball of Violence or zooming outside a building and showing it bounce and tumble around from the force of the battle.
Related to Gory Discretion Shot and Sound-Only Death. Compare and contrast with Charge Into Combat Cut, Offscreen Moment of Awesome, and Relax-O-Vision. Most of the time, the viewer will have to Take Our Word for It.
Warning: Contains spoilers
Anime and Manga
- Tsukuyomi Moon Phase, I'm looking at you. The fight between Hazuki and Count Kinkel took place pretty much entirely off-screen. And it was dead serious.
- Used for humorous effect in Excel Saga when Excel is killing the creator of the original manga, Koshi Rikdo, random shots of flowers and butterflies are seen in place of the supposedly gory action.
- The majority of the gun battle between Revy and Roberta of Black Lagoon was done like this.
- In Bleach, the fight between Espada #0 Yammy Rialgo and the team of Rukia, Chad, and Renji takes place mainly off-panel. We see them preparing to fight... and then we switch to the Real World for a few months to cover the fights there. By the time we catch up in Hueco Mundo, Much of the battle has already taken place, with Rukia the last one standing.
- Yammy again this time he's fighting Kenpachi and Byakuya then we switch to Ichigo and Unohana on their way to Fake Karakura Town. Then after it's all over we see Yammy defeated.
- One Piece, chapter "0": the fight between Admiral Sengoku and Vice-Admiral Garp versus Gold Lion Shiki that ended with the latters defeat and half of Marineford in ruins. Somehow, a full-sized ship got lodged into it.
- The end of the first arc of The Twelve Kingdoms. It's spent something like twelve episodes building up to Youko rescuing Keiki and claiming the throne- then skips over the entire civil war in about 5 minutes. Sure, the series is meant to focus more on character interactions, but still.
- Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch managed to have one minor example, being an anime that focuses on magical girls who fight their opponents by singing. In one scene, Rina encounters a group of boys who want to give her a ride and seem to be thinking naughty thoughts. The scene then switches to a calm scene on the beach. Cut back to the car scene to see the boys knocked out with Rina dusting off her hands.
- In Nabari no Ou, the Raimei/Raikou vs. Kouichi/Shijima fight is mostly off-panel for a practical reason: the fight lasts for several hours. On top of that, Kouichi and Shijima are immortal, so it's a Foregone Conclusion that Raimei and Raikou are going to lose.
- In Fairy Tail Erza Scarlet vs Erza Knightwalker Round one was this.
- In 52, there's a beautiful example of this. Lex Luthor has been provoking Steel for months—at the moment, Steel's niece is his hostage—and has often crossed the Moral Event Horizon for reasons related to his "Everyman" project, which has culminated in Luthor gaining Superman's powers. Steel's armor has been destroyed, which leads to several pages of No-Holds-Barred Beatdown—and Steel still gets back up, every single time. Fortunately, Natasha (The niece) uses Luthor's paranoia and her own ingenuity against him, ultimately shutting down Luthor's powers. Luthor has an Oh Crap moment, and then the next panel is a wide shot of the building, and the sounds of smackdown echoing across Metropolis. It is unspeakably satisfying. The creator commentary included in the trade paperback reveals that, originally, we were supposed to actually see the end of the fight, but the writers realised that nothing they could draw could possibly look as amazing as what the readers' own minds would fill in.
- In the "Grand Theft America" arc of The Ultimates, Hawkeye has been captured and tortured in order to provide defensive codes allowing the Masters to attack New York City. After hours of torture he tears off his own fingernails and kills several guards by flicking them into their throats before threatening a scientist to let him go. After he's released a battalion charges in with him about to pick up an assault rifle. We cut to guards watching the carnage on security cameras before cutting back to reveal Hawkeye standing over a dozen dead soldiers holding two smoking rifles. His response to the security cameras? "Run."
- In Street Fighter, one issue ends with Ryu accepting a challenge from "the greatest Kushti wrestler in all of India." We don't see the fight, but one can only imagine how it ended.
- Part of the climax for Let the Right One In: Oskar is about to be drowned by the brother of the bully he beat up, his head held underwater. We only see it from under the pool, so we don't know what's happening at first, but it becomes apparent soon enough that Eli is killing the bullies when a severed head falls into the pool, followed swiftly by an arm.
- Fahrenheit 9/11 didn't show any footage of the September 11th attacks, but instead showed a blank black screen while audio clips of the events were played, followed by reactions of people who saw it happen caught on (muted) video.
- Invoked in Spy Kids: "Carmen, Juni, close your eyes! We don't want you to see this!"
- Fight Club: The fight between the Narrator and Blondie. According to the director's commentary, the original version was more directly graphic, but the censors boohooed it. The result that made it into the cinematic version fit this trope. The change, arguably, led to a scene more horrible because it used this trope.
- The Warriors: Near the end of the movie, Swan and Luther engage in a duel, which simply ends with Luther being stabbed in the hand with Swan's knife, dropping the gun. Then the Riffs show up, tell the Warriors they're off the hook, and surround Luther and The Rogues. An intense asskicking ensues, but the audience is not allowed to see it, as the camera instead pans to The Warriors walking along the beach...
- Vietnam War film 84 Charlie MoPic is shot from the point of view of a cameraman attached to a army squad. (The title is his callsign.) At one point the squad calls down unseen artillery on unseen Vietcong, as the film didn't have the budget to show either of them.
- A short film named Woodshed is nothing but this: a static shot of a woodshed and the noises of a huge scuffle.
- Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: While his stunt doubles kick the ever-loving crap out of Scott, Lucas Lee steps away from the fight to grab some coffee and check his text messages, which are apparently hilarious. Before he can sip his coffee, though...
Scott: Mr. Lee! *camera pans back to Scott on his feet, all his stunt doubles defeated* You're needed back on set!
- How to Train Your Dragon: Happens in the last dragon training exercise. Despite Hiccup's willingness to let Astrid win the exercise, by the time Astrid comes around to make her move, Hiccup has already incapacitated the dragon (and by his expression, probably by accident). Also used the first time the Vikings try to take the dragons' nest.
- Pixar loves this one. usually involving a trailer or truck of some kind.
- Rackety Tam has a small group of robbers occupying a family of farming voles' home. Then, The Lancer (and The Big Guy) and the Lightning Bruiser come along and decide to infiltrate the home as "hostages". In an offscreen battle inside the home, from the POV of the vole family who have evacuated their children outside to keep them away from the fighting, the two protagonists manage to kill all the three or four robbers. According to the sounds inside, they fight them with kitchen utensils and their own weapons. In the end, the last of the robbers trundles out, gargles violently and dies as well.
- The battle outside Riverrun in A Song of Ice and Fire is told entirely from Catelyn Stark's perspective. She is somewhere close to the battle where she can hear it, but it was too dark for her to see.
- C. S. Lewis was fond of this. The climactic battle in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which the filmmakers took as an excuse to do the epic thing, is recounted second hand in the book, and the duel between Peter and Miraz in Prince Caspian is told by being described by a spectator to a short-sighted companion.
- In Twilight, Bella faints right when the Big Damn Cullens arrive and misses them killing James.
- Appears in The Hobbit, when Bilbo faints during the Battle of the Five Armies.
- A lot of the historical events in Time Cat are known to have ended less than peaceably, and the protagonists conveniently skip out of time for a lot of them.
Live Action TV
- The Sarah Connor Chronicles: the big battle between the FBI and Cromartie at the end of Season 1 to the tune of Johnny Cash's "The Man Comes Around." Cromartie slaughters everybody except Agent Ellison, but we only see things from underwater, as bodies come crashing down in the pool one by one. And a voice spoke and said, "Come and see," and I saw. And behold, a flaming horse, and him that was on it was Awesome, and Sweet followed after him.
- Done repeatedly in Rome. The series includes several major battles of the early Roman Empire, but only once actually showed huge groups of soldiers fighting each other. For example, Caesar's campaign against Magnus is represented with a few screaming soldiers and a Roman standard falling into a puddle. That's about five years of warfare, right there.
- Heroes has season one's big showdown between Future Peter and Sylar - colorful lights busting through the door Mohinder's holding shut.
- Also season three's big showdown had the Petrelli brothers facing off against Sylar at his absolute strongest. All we saw was colorful lights and Claire's eye peaking through the door. The fandom was a bit less forgiving this time.
- During the first fight of Power Rangers RPM (between Dillon and some Mooks), the camera stays focused on a lone flower, which Dillon had watered just beforehand and is probably the only thing still living in the wastes.
- In the Stargate SG-1 episode "Upgrades", O'Neill, Carter, and Daniel get into a Bar Brawl while wearing the Atoniek armbands (which make them way faster and stronger, among other things). After O'Neill opens the fight by flipping a guy upside down one-handed, the camera cuts to the bar's exterior whereupon you hear a series of loud smacks, thuds, and shattering glass.
- One Calvin and Hobbes strip had Calvin sledding down a particularly treacherous hill. Instead of seeing him crash, we see Hobbes standing at the top of the hill, watching and reacting.
- The Team Fortress 2 video Meet the Sandvich takes place entirely inside a refrigerator with the camera pointing at the eponymous Sandvich. The beauty is in the sounds of the battle - first the Heavy chows down on his sandvich with an almost-adorable "OM NOM NOM" noise, then come some sickening cracks and the Scout's screams of "MY BLOOD! HE PUNCHED OUT ALL MY BLOOD!" Hilarity ensued.
- In Mega Man X, right before the rematch with Vile, Zero goes in first, and the player merely hears battle noises for a few moments before they regain control of X.
- Donkey Kong Country Returns starts off with a bang using one of these. After the two-minute intro cutscene, the first level begins with you vigorously shaking the Wiimote to make DK pound on Kalimba, which is shown from outside the (very bouncy) hut.
- Used a couple times in the Monkey Island series; once in the governor's mansion in The Secret of Monkey Island and then in Club 41 in the first episode of Tales of Monkey Island. The latter is one of those "creators didn't have the resources" versions; in a game commentary they explain that showing the inside of Club 41 would have put them over the Wii's file size limit.
- 8-Bit Theater loves this trope. For every battle that's shown on panel, there are at least two whose effects are only observed by the other characters or implied via speech bubbles, sound effects, or rivers of blood from offpanel. The crowning moment, however, is in the Final Battle with Chaos where this is used twice—first when it actually happens and again, in a Double Subversion, in Flash Back. The latter also counts as an intentional Offscreen Moment of Awesome.
- In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Doc is retrieving a missile from a robot alligator submarine when a park warden catches him. The next page of the comic simply contains the words: HE IS A NINJA and then cuts to Doc driving the warden's car to his destination.
- In El Goonish Shive, Grace plays a fighting game during her birthday party while Ellen watches. At one point, Ellen is actually shocked by what she sees even though its stated to be only cartoon violence.
- Parodied in this scene of Homestuck, wherein we cut away from Jack Noir killing a regulator to a Pawn that Jack Noir killed previously using a knife. And then we cut back (too early) to see that Jack Noir isn't actually finished killing the regulator, let alone cleaning up the copious amounts of blood.
- Lampshaded in the Animaniacs episode "Bully for Slappy." After being warned to tone down the level of violence in her cartoons by the US government, Slappy Squirrel spends the rest of the episode building a strange machine while Skippy deals with a school bully. Once the machine is finished, Slappy feeds the bully AND a senator into the machine, explaining that this machine helps eliminate the viewing of violence on screen, by allowing all the violence to happen OFF screen.
- The Yakuza/Springfield Mafia fight in The Simpsons takes place mostly from the view of the Kitchen. Homer is then rather bummed out that he's missing out on all the good action.
- Especially since "The Little Guy hasn't done anything yet, and you know when he does, it's gonna to be good"
- "Kiyaa!" * thud* * thud* * thud* "Aww!"
- (Little Guy crashes through the window) "Forgiveness, please!"
- Happens a lot in cartoons to get around the Moral Guardians. You'll see stars and planets shooting into frame from offscreen and you get to see the onlookers wincing reactions.
- The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy: Billy and Mandy pulled this during one episode. As an epic showdown between mushroom-mining dwarfs and cookie-baking elves is about to take place, R. Lee Ermey himself pops up on screen, telling viewers that the fight "is inappropriate for our younger viewers." We are then treated to around 45 seconds of a panda cleaning itself before Ermey brings us back with his signature "Carry on!"
- South Park "My god! This battle is epic! This is even more epic than the final battle in the Lord of the Rings movie, this is like ten times more epic than that battle!"
- Ironically, in the Rankin-Bass animated The Return of the King, even during epic battles, all violence is hidden: a human will fall out-of-frame to the left, and then an orc will enter the frame, and swing his axe in the direction of the (hidden) human.
- It also happens in their version of The Hobbit some examples include when Gandalf kills The Great Goblin you see him swing the sword and it cuts to the Great Goblin grabbing at his throat and falling into a tunnel, when Bilbo stabs the spiders you see closeups of their spinning faces, and during The Battle of Five Armies the only impacts shown are when an enemy is hit with a shield other than that they swing their weapons and it cuts to the enemy falling, and from a distance you see dots throwing spears and arrows at each other.
- In the Hercules series based on the animated movie, this tended to happen whenever Hades pissed off another of the Olympian gods, usually in the last scene of an episode. He'd try - vainly - to apologize to his angry contemporary, then the screen would shift to the main cast, watching - with horror, amusement, or a combination of both - a rather violent offscreen fight that was clearly one-sided against Hades.
- Freakazoid! went a step or two further with Relax-O-Vision. Can't have the kiddies see you beating up Ben Stein? Relax-O-Vision!
- Used as a Running Gag in Road Rovers, where Muzzle is unleashed on the villains and we cut to the others' reactions to the carnage.
- Looney Tunes: Happens near the climatic end of the Bugs Bunny short "Knights Must Fall".
- A few big battles in the animated Asterix movies use the Big Ball of Violence to hide the brutality, filling the screen with dust and armour flying out (also odder things like false teeth and boxer shorts).
- In a more specific example, During Asterix in Britain, when Obelix is imprisoned in the "Tower of Londinium", we see him leave his cell in the fashion you'd expect of Obelix, then we cut to outside the Tower, hearing the sounds of Obelix knocking the guards about (and occasionally one flying out the window) as he goes down. Once he's down, however, Asterix goes in the front, thinking Obelix is still in there, and it happens again, only this time, going up. They both then realise where the other is, and it happens again until they meet in the middle. The whole thing pretty much qualifies for a CMOF.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has Pinkie Pie's attempt to persuade the dragon in "Dragonshy".
Pinkie Pie: (enters dragon cave in a silly outfit) Sharing a laugh is a surefire way to get someone on your side.
- Happens a lot in cartoons made by Xilam, such as Oggy and the Cockroaches and Space Goofs, where characters are beaten senseless off screen. Although we do get to see the results.
- The Powerpuff Girls episode "Power Lunch"; after the Girls are nearly done in by he super-powered Gangrene Gang, the villains lose their powers, and the Girls are - justifiably - angry. The final scene closes to the sounds of the Girls brutally giving them a pounding over the narrator's closing statements.
- Happens a lot in Codename: Kids Next Door, especially when one of the heroes beats up several adult enemies, something that is hard to show realistically. One good example is the end credits which occur right after the end of "Operation: F.L.U.S.H.", right after the team closes in on the Toilenator; the viewers see the Treehouse and hear a violent fight from within, until finally, there's a loud flushing noise and the badly bruised villain is dumped out a drainpipe.
- Transformers Rescue Bots features one of these when the titular Bots finally manage to confront the MorBot in combat at the end of "The Reign of Morocco". It may double as a robotic form of Gory Discretion Shot, as the resulting rain of robot parts implies that what they did was rather brutal.
Chase: MorBot decommissioned.
- This happens a lot in the Hercules series, usually at the end of the episode, whenever Hades pisses off another of the Olympian gods. He'll try — vainly — to apologize to his angry contemporary, then the screen shifts to the main cast, watching — with horror, amusement, or a combination of the two — a rather violent offscreen fight that was clearly one-sided against Hades.
- Happens a lot in Codename: Kids Next Door, especially when only one of the heroes beats up several adult enemies, something that is hard to show realistically. One good example is The Stinger which occurs right after the end of "Operation: F.L.U.S.H.", right after the team closes in on the Toilenator; the viewers see an outdoor view of the Treehouse and hear a violent fight from within, until finally, there's a loud flushing noise and the badly bruised villain is dumped out a drainpipe.
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: In the episode "Frankie, My Dear", when Frankie finds her current (and soon to be ex) boyfriend insulting and bullying Mac and Bloo, she gives him a Death Glare, rolls up her sleeve... And the scene cuts to her, Mac, and Bloo eating pizza:
Mac: Wow, Frankie, I can't believe you gave him a nosebleed!