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(CNN) —  

Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” opened in June of 1982 starring arguably the biggest actor in the world at the time, Harrison Ford. While it was positioned to be a blockbuster, the film faded after a few weeks with minimal box office gross and mixed reviews.

So why decades later is a film that made only $32 million now a major Hollywood sequel?

Away from its multiple director cuts over the years and visionary production design, what’s kept “Blade Runner” in the cultural zeitgeist – and what makes “Blade Runner 2049” current – are the questions the films explore regarding the fundamental rights of men and machines.

“I think that these questions about what is it okay to build – and even questions of genetic modification – seem to be much more relevant today than they were 35 years ago,” Kate Darling, a researcher at M.I.T.’s media lab who focuses on robotics and ethics, told CNN.

These subjects, along with a 88% score on review site Rotten Tomatoes, have given “Blade Runner 2049” plenty of advance buzz. Industry analysts are projecting a solid $50 million domestic opening for the Warner Bros. film, which stars Ryan Gosling and Ford reprising his role of Rick Deckard. There’s even talk that the film may have a long run during awards season.

Questions regarding humanity’s impact on technology have also become a big theme in popular culture as of late, showcased in Netflix’s “Black Mirror” and HBO’s “Westworld,” a drama series based on the 1973 film.

Related: “Blade Runner 2049” review

So while the technological morality explored in the orignal “Blade Runner” may have been slightly ahead of its time, Darling believes that theme is now right on time.

“Is it right to create something that wants to be alive and to treat it like a slave?” Darling said. “I mean, that’s really the main question that [“Blade Runner”] wants viewers to ask themselves because we are moving in a direction where we might be able to do that.”

(CNN, like Warner Bros., is owned by Time Warner.)