I didn't expect to particularly enjoy the new Star Wars movie. The franchise is hoary. It bears the weight of nearly 40 years of cruft. We finicky old-timer fans expected Wonder Boy JJ Abrams to not only atone for past sins, but to put aside a few of his own signature cinematographical signatures to revive the modern Prometheus. I expected something flashy, mostly devoid of substance. I expected a 2 hour-and-change music video with Wookiees. I basically got what I expected. I even got a few nods to the extended universe, which surprised me since Disney explicitly jettisoned the novel series when they acquired the rights.
I didn't expect to particularly enjoy the new Star Wars movie, but I did expect the kids in the audience to. I was six years old when Empire opened, just about the ideal age to truly lose myself in Hoth, Dagobah, and Bespin. I was the right age to beg my parents for the Kenner toys that unfortunately lacked the joint articulation seen on the superior G.I. Joe action figures (woe betide any who dared call these toys by their hidden, secret name: dolls). I would run around the dirt lot, swinging sticks and making whooshing sounds with my mouth trying to mimic lightsaber foley. It occurs to me now that I wasn't so much in love with Star Wars as I adored being a kid. Because being a kid is pretty awesome. Most of the time.
But Star Wars filled an entertainment void, doncha know. 1980 also gave us Raging Bull, Airplane!, The Shining, Ordinary People, The Big Red One... here, look for yourself. Conspicuously absent are movies aimed at the young teen crowd. Hollywood was mostly busy catering to Baby Boomers. Rightfully so, too. Go where the money is. Go where you can please the most customers. If you're old enough to have outgrown Disney, tough nuts, pal. Deal with it. Go ride your bike.
Things are considerably different now. Marvel is actually making superhero movies that don't suck tepid cat piss (have you seen the trailers for Civil War? Of course you have. They have to cast Carol Danvers one of these days. I wonder who they'll get). Online streaming services let you binge-watch extended-form episodic content that embarrass what passed for television in the early 1980s (I challenge you to attempt to re-watch Dukes of Hazzard or The A-Team with older eyes). And video games? 2 hours and 16 minutes in an IMAX theater is a nice little wasted afternoon, but I can promise you that this time next year, I will remember the names Evie and Jacob Frye, but I'll probably have forgotten Kylo Ren and Poe Dameron.
Put simply, there is simply too much competition for Star Wars to catch the 1977 lightning in a bottle. Fans have remarkable alternatives. So yes, I expected the target audience to get a kick out of the movie, but when I saw the kids just milling around bored outside of the theater after the show, I suppose I shouldn't have been too surprised. We live in an age of wonders, after all. It's easy to abandon wonder in the midst of non-stop magic.