...and Star Trek.
I caught Serenity last week and thought it was a well put together film, though I think its IMDB rating might be benefiting a bit from the fact that internet ratings favor geek-bait.
Moreover, I'm truly impressed by the visuals in this remarkably inexpensive film. So I'm wondering why it's struggling at the box office. Last year The Chronicles of Riddick came out and, while it had its problems, it certainly didn't have more problems as a film than, say Fantastic Four, which did significantly better at filling the seats.
My suspicion is that the space opera genre appears to have a larger audience than it in fact does have, due to the anomalous success of Star Wars and, to a lesser extent, Star Trek. I think both cases were fresh and well-executed ideas that enjoyed enough success to turn them into self-sustaining brands.
Space opera has this real problem in that, like fantasy, it's about creating an entirely new world for the reader to explore. This works well in novels, which have plenty of room for back story and exploration. But movies are tiny things and if you drop the unitiated into this new universe we have nothing to connect to. Everything's too new and different, the film makers lack the time to give a proper introduction, and that leads to disconnect -- and disconnect leads to a flat experience.
Films like Alien and Pitch Black finesse this problem by making the larger fictional world unimportant. The story is all about this small group of characters and we're fully able to connect to making a few bucks, corporate giving us the shit detail, or simply being forced to travel with a bunch of whackos and creeps.