"If you look at all of the stuff that came before it, it was such a departure from everything else. Seventies sci-fi tended to be pretty dystopian -- 'Planet of the Apes,' 'Soylent Green,'" he said. "George [Lucas] managed to paint a much more accurate picture of the way technology integrates into our world. ... He painted a picture of a future where people actually just use technology to do whatever they're going to do, as opposed to just worshiping at the altar or crying at the altar of technology."
That new look at technology is why it may have resonated with the general public, as well, according to Patricia King Hanson, a film historian and the executive editor of the America Film Institute Catalog of Feature Film.
"I think one of the charms ... is that it's both looking forward, but [reflecting on] things in the past that are very enjoyable. It was unabashedly upbeat," she said. "But it was also the first time a film [was] simultaneously a blockbuster hit and a cult film."
Kaku said the film was more than just a fairy tale.
"Fairy tales don't do anything. They don't inspire people to become princes and princesses," he said. "Science fiction does inspire young people to become professional scientists. ... For us it's more than just fantasy. It's like, what if? What if we can become a scientist to prove this thing is possible? It's a challenge. ... We get our thrills by wanting to make the special effects into reality."