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"The one element of Blade Runner 2049 that makes it completely unmissable."

If you’re not a person who openly worships at the film alter that is Blade Runner, the iconic 1982 science fiction movie starring Harrison Ford, allow me to explain why some people might be openly weeping right next to you in the cinema lines this weekend.

The neo-noir inspired movie, directed by Ridley Scott, is one of those flicks that has truly cemented itself as a staple of  cinematic history and pop-culture conversations.

It shows up on every “Best Movie” list, has spawned three decades worth of think pieces and has inspired generations of film, arts and creative studies students to churn out countless essays dissecting its every phrase, scene and meaning.

Many movie goers may think of Harrison Ford as as the roguish Han Solo or the adventurous Indiana Jones. But for a whole other audience he is and always will be Rick Deckard,  an ex-police officer turned Blade Runner, a person tasked with tracking down bioengineered beings known as replicants and “retiring ” them (a euphemism for killing them, often in a brutal fashion) when they step out of line.

(I won’t spoil the original movie’s plot-line here, but I urge you to go and watch it in all it’s 80’s glory on Stan. Watching the sequel will be a much more magical experience for you if you’re immersed in the original story.)

Listen: Laura Brodnik and Clare Stephens explain why Electric Dreams is the compelling new TV show you need to be watching on The Binge. 

The film’s long-awaited sequel Blade Runner 2049 picks up 30 years on from the events of the original movie.

In the opening moments of the film we are introduced to Officer K (Ryan Gosling), a Blade Runner assigned to the Los Angeles Police Department, who spends his days patrolling Southern California on the hunt for rogue replicants before returning home to his shabby shoe-box apartment and the holographic arms of Joi (Ana de Armas) his artificial intelligence live-in girlfriend.

While out on a job and “retiring” an escaped replicant, one who only wanted to spend the rest of his days quietly toiling away on his farm, K accidentally unearths a decades old secret that has the potential to destroy the tentative co-existence between the humans and replicants left on Earth.

It’s a strong premise that works well against the film’s dystopian backdrop, especially since the original Blade Runner was, at its heart, much more a detective story than it was a hard sci-fi feature and the 2049 version treads similar ground.

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The mystery around K’s discovery, and his very origin of birth, slowly unravels on screen as the film progresses and in amongst the more jaw dropping reveals are a series of tiny clues hidden within the film’s framework – clues that only really make sense once the credits have rolled. It’s like watching a treasure map unfold on the big screen.

Gosling does a solid job of bringing K to life, and his stoic and gruff portrayal of the character at no time feels bland or strays into “generic action hero” territory.

If you’re a fan of the original, your heart will drop into your stomach (in the best way possible) when Deckard appears on screen and although his appearance may not be enough to satisfy die-hard fans, it feels like a fitting extension of the iconic character’s story.

Ryan Gosling as K and Ana de Arma as Joi. Source: Sony Pictures.

Where Blade Runner 2049 does surprisingly shine, however, is in its depiction of female characters. Even though this is truly K's story, the film is littered with actresses working with compelling material and turning in extraordinary performances.

Which, for anyone who was watched a lot of sci-fi in their time, knows to be a noteworthy feat. Female characters in these types of movies can often be relegated to bland love interests or scantily clad and interchangeable eye candy.

Robin Wright stars as Lieutenant Joshi, K's boss and the first person to truly realise what his discovery could mean for the human race, and vows to stop it from coming out.  Sylvia Hoeks plays Luv, a new breed of replicant who is the loyal assistant/assassin for Jared Leto’s villainous Niander Wallace. The showdown between these two characters is probably one of the most entertaining, and chilling, moments of the film.

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Ana de Arma's Joi is also a standout. Much like the replicant "pleasure models" depicted in the first movie, she has been created solely to fulfill a sexual male fantasy and offers up a "girlfriend experience" to whomever has purchased the product.

It's a character that could have been easily played for gratuitous body shots, or even laughs. But in the hands of the 2049 team , and thanks to de Arma's mesmerizing performance, her story-line centres around the question of whether or not artificial intelligence can ever truly mimic human emotion.

And so her story becomes less sex-toyesque and more of a riff on themes explored in Disney movies like Pinocchio or The Little Mermaid. Because all she wants is to be a real girl and mold her body into a new form that means she can be with the man she loves.

It's a story thread that leads to a brief but memorable (and highly erotic) sex scene between Joi, K and another female replicant. A scene that is as sensual as it is problematic and raises a whole slew of questions about human emotion, artificial intelligence and consent.  Joi is the only character in the film with no true physical form, and yet your heart ends up breaking for her the most.

It's moments like this one, with depth and a strong use of female characters, that make Blade Runner 2049 an unmissable film.

For fans of the original, I know there's a lot at stake here for you, but this is an offering that is a welcome companion to the 80's masterpiece. And for those of you yet to dip a toe in the Blade Runner pool, strap yourself in for a movie that's less high-action and more slow burn mystery. With a few excellent, kick-arse scenes thrown in for good measure.

And just remember, nobody much liked the first iteration of Blade Runner, which was met with lukewarm critical response and box-office takings. Sometimes a masterpiece takes a while to grow on you.

You can follow Mamamia Entertainment Editor and host of The Binge podcast Laura Brodnik on Facebook. 

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