May 25, 2017, marked the 40th anniversary of the premiere of a movie called “Star Wars.” The science fiction epic Space Adventure became a cultural phenomenon, with the film’s first run lasting an entire year. The movie was a bright experience, full of color and zest that brightened the otherwise dreary later part of the 1970s.

In a galaxy far far away

Everyone knows the story of “Star Wars.” A young farm boy finds out he has a destiny and has to leave his home to follow it. Along the way, he meets a venerable teacher, a beautiful princess, a charming rogue, and a couple of comedy relief characters. He manages to defeat the nefarious plot of an evil enemy, winning the day for a motley crew of rebels against a tyrannical empire.

The story was told against a backdrop of soaring spaceships, flashing blaster fire, and awe-inspiring planetscapes. It was the perfect summer blockbuster that spawned a host of sequels, not to mention TV shows, comic books, tie-in novels, and action figures. The name of the movie was even lent to a real life weapons development program designed to make nuclear weapons obsolete.

The Japanese roots of ‘Star Wars’

One fact about “Star Wars” that most people don’t know is that the story has roots in Japanese cinema. Just as “The Magnificent Seven” was a Wild West version of “The Seven Samurai,” “Star Wars” was a science fiction version of a movie called “The Hidden Fortress.” The elements are all there in the Japanese period drama about a motley crew of peasants and samurai caught between the struggles between rival warlords.

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It is fortunate for George Lucas that “cultural appropriation” was not considered an unpardonable sin back in 1977 or else his greatest epic would have been ruined for many.

A time long long ago

The movies and TV shows spawned by “Star Wars” are of varying quality, some good and others (like the three done in the 1990s) not so good. Nothing compares, though, to the beautiful act of discovery that occurred for anyone walking into a movie theater in 1977, the first year of the Carter presidency, that adventure and wonder could still exist, albeit for just a couple of hours on a big movie screen. “Star Wars” has never gotten old, even for people who have seen it dozens of times on the big and small screens. Everyone who was of age in those days remembers what it was like when they first ventured to a time long long ago in a galaxy far far away with a great deal of fondness,