Earlier in the film, we are presented with the shot of the Tyrannosaurus rex Paddock viewing area. We see the tunnel entrance from which the cars came out of, then a large fence leading from the ground near the tunnel’s exit, going across the screen and for an unknown length into the forest. A goat is then raised from an underground feeding center and placed within the paddock. Skipping ahead to the actual attack, we now are presented with the exact same stretch of road/fence: the goat is present, the fence is present, and the tunnel exit would be further down the road but is not visible due to a downed tree. What makes this difficult for some is the set, particularly for the main road filming involving the actual Rex attack itself was re-produced from an outdoor set to an indoor one in the film.
As the attack commences, the T-Rex attacks the fence between the two vehicles. At the same time, the fence near the first tour-car begins to buckle under the force of the Rex pulling on the cables. The T-Rex then makes her triumphant entrance, ripping the fence and stepping out into the viewing area. The fun begins once the Rex attacks the first car, flipping it over and crushing it. Grant, Malcolm, and even Gennaro (unwillfully) manage to distract the Rex long enough for Grant to get Lex out of the car before the Rex decides to knock the car into its paddock.
This is where the confusion begins. Many people who have viewed this scene have called it a flub as that they say the cliff seemingly appears from nowhere and makes no sense, but there is sense in its appearance other than just to add much needed action and drama to the scene.
Original blueprints and foliage schematics to the scene show a moat. There is an earlier set blueprint (left) that shows the moat parallel to the fence, much like how it is described in the novel. However, due to feasibility reasons, the moat was moved to be more perpendicular to the fence. In the novel, the T. rex picks up the tour car and tosses it into a nearby tree inside the Tyrannosaur Paddock. However, because this could not be feasibly achieved in the movie, it was altered. Now, the Tyrannosaurus pushes the car into the pit and into a tree. These later blueprints (right) show a scene more similar to how it is in the final scene. The moat has been moved to be a large tree-filled pit next to the main paddock where the T. rex can be viewed. The bathrooms where Gennaro meets his fate has been moved back among the trees and the overall size of the area has been increased to allow freer movement of animatronics. We also see a storyboard style view of where the T. rex will be coming out, where she will be moving the car to, and where the tree is that the car will be landing into. These blueprints effectively show everything that is needed to be shown to explain the scene.
Looking at our film evidence here, we first we have the initial arrival. We can see here that the fence is quite long. If you look, the fence actually doesn’t stretch all the way to the tunnel. It all seems to converge into a small point next to the tunnel. This would seemingly be an error because we are lead to believe that Rex’s range stretched all the way to the tunnel and possibly further, but this is actually our first hint that the paddock has a boundary further in. Also hinting at the existence of the pit in this location is the fencing itself. Rather than reaching all the way to the tunnel, the fencing abruptly stops. It is hard to tell exactly what the ground level of the area is and exactly what is where but what we can be certain of is that the area where the goat is raised is level with the track.
The next photo shows that the goat is nearly right between the two tour cars, with a bushy area to the left of it, and a small clearing to the right and behind it. There is also a “High Voltage” sign right in front of it. Looking back on picture, one, and you can therefore place the stopping of the cars as around the 2nd “High Voltage” sign (based on the foliage, the movement of the cars past the first sign, and the placement of the 2nd sign).
Next, we have the shot of the rex leaving the fence. Notice the distance between the tour cars. This is slightly misleading. It looks like the cars are closer together and that the rex is right on top of the first car, but this is because of camera angle, the camera lens, and how the cars themselves are positioned on the horizon. The key here is to look really closely, and you can tell that the cars are quite a distance from each-other. For instances, look at the first car and see how close it is to the camera, and then look at how far the second car is from that. Also of notice here the size difference between everything due to the distance.
We see the Rex walking from the second car to the first car, but notice the placement of the high voltage sign. We know that the goat was positioned right at that sign, so that gives us a pretty clear idea of the relationship between the day and night time shots. Now, we see the Rex chasing Ian, but looking past that, you can see, again, the relationship distance wise between the two cars. Also notice the large amount of plant material in what should be a clear area-compared to the daytime shot. We must remember that this is during a tropical storm and like in any storm, if the ground is overly saturated then large trees will become uprooted and so this is no different.
Here, we can see exactly where the first car is situated and notice the “high voltage” sign still within view. In the next shot we see where exactly the car is going to go over. Notice the pole that had become structurally weakened earlier standing to the right of where the car will go over. The cables here seem to have snapped, probably because of the stress of being on and being rooted to the pole just out of the shot to the right.
This is a good shot of the aftermath of the attack. The 2nd car is just off camera to the right of the jeep. You can see along the right edge of the shot the hole where the rex exited the paddock. If you look further down, you see where there is a dark mark in the cement wall: that is where the first car with Gennaro and Hammond’s grandkids went over the edge. Also notice where the high voltage sign is: It is right next to the part of the roof of the Explorer that came off. So, you can see one of the most curious things about the whole endeavor is the illusion of depth. The trees Ellie is shining her flashlight on are far back, but not too far back that there is a lot of room for forest and such. This ravine or moat would seem not to be very wide at all here, but the fact is we know there is solid ground before the drop when we take in the scene fully from here.
After examining all this, there are some important details to be remembered. In the daytime shot, the actual placement of the foliage is hard to tell. There is definitely a difference in the proximity of foliage in the feeding area as compared to the rest of the length of the fence, but there are no real good shots showing exactly what is along this section of road. The plants are further back, but exactly by how much is hard to say. Based on the first shot of the vehicles entering the Rex viewing area, we can clearly see that the fence continues only up to the tunnel exit, but not all the way to it. Looking at the scene, we can also see that the plants clearly do not reach all the way to the fence as they do in the feeding area. Then comparing everything we can, we find that the Rex exited the paddock right of the feeding area, where the viewing area would come in contact with the fence. The car was then pushed over the cement wall into the paddock in an area to the left of the feeding area, just past where the ground was level, and fell into a small ravine where there are several trees, one of which the car falls into. The ravine also must be at least 100 feet deep, to account for the drop and the tree height. It is also possible that the ground within the paddock sloped down slightly too at some point in the paddock’s topography.
Now as far as presentation, the mere fact that this has caused confusion is enough to say something is wrong or people are just not as observant as they should rightfully be. Looking at the initial presentation of the scene, we can see that the plants that should be far away from the fence don’t appear that far away. They also appear to be different plants than those Ellie is shining her flashlight on. This alone is enough to cause minor confusion. On top of that, the camera angles used are extremely restricted, showing off very little of the paddock, perhaps in an attempt to restrain the audience within the tour vehicles as well.
Steven Spielberg tried to show off the cliff when Alan and Lex climb over the cement curb though, we can discern it behind Lex and Alan as the camera focuses on Lex holding onto Alan trying to grab the other piece of the fence to slide down uninjured and to maintain their balance as not to fall into the ravine. All in all, the “Queen of the Hill” scene is not a flub or even a mistake. It is merely a simple miscommunication between the film and the audience here.
3 thoughts on “Queen of the Hill – The Suddenly Random Cliff Flub”
This sidesteps the bigger question – why introduce this obvious major lapse in security in the first place? If the moat is there to contain the T. rex, why intentionally breach/break it and give her access to the electrified fence? If the fence alone was deemed to be sufficient to contain her, why go through all the effort to build 99% of complete moat? As long as there is even one spot in the moat where it can be easily crossed, then it can be easily crossed and it fails in its purpose as a moat. As such, whereas the logistics of the construction can be explained, it does not explain the breakdown in logic of the park owners/builders. I think this is where focus should be placed.
We have to learn to accept that there won’t always be answers to these types of questions and that the fact that there isn’t an answer is a viable answer until there’s more information later. What we do know is a suspension of belief is required for the films and with films, things are done for the dramatic effect of these types of scenarios. We don’t really know why exactly that moat or part of it was there and even why it was designed the way it was that we saw in the film or if it is part of another subterranean structure that is attached to the underground tunnel system on the island.
What we do have is a possibility. It is possible that this cement moat or part of it was attached to the underground system of tunnels that were used by InGen on the island to transport everything from food, water, livestock, and equipment from one end of the island to the other. There was also a Desalinization plant on the island somewhere to filter seawater into drinking and freshwater and would need pipes to pump it inland and back out to the plant to dispose of wastewater. The main point though is this is a movie and so we’re only seeing in the direction the lens shows us and in fact not the entire surrounding. This article is really dealing with the fact that this wasn’t a flub or a case of a randomly appearing cliff. It points out that this cliff and concrete structure was here all along and not exactly why it was here or specifically the reason for it. So we have questions about this subject ourselves that will remain unanswered. Questions like, was it for security? was it for aesthetic? was it for utility? was it because the construction contractor was just annoyed with Hammond’s request? We can’t say for sure.
If they could have added a single passing shot of that location from the other side of the fence during the day (showing the cliff next to the goat feeding area) when the cars first enter that area, this continuity problem never happens.
However they didn’t and the large hill behind the initial shot from the cars side of the fence throws the whole sudden cliff appearance later in question.
They should have foreshadowed the cliff in some way. Something like showing the oxygen tanks in Jaws mid film.