The Coolest Product in the Universe
A group of feral goths ekes out a precarious existence on the outskirts of Los Angeles during a prolonged recession. They are in conflict with other ferals and the local authorities are conspicuous by their absence. One day a package arrives. There is no return address. The package is the product. This product is so cool it doesn't even have to show its brand. The goths are excited but at the same time terrified that it will end up on their credit card.
Later, thinking about products and branding, one of the goths has an idea for a new line in bone piercings. He tries it out on another demographic group with mixed results. What the hell, he thinks, and, in a grand gesture of defiance of market forces, spontaneously creates a logo.
Pan Am has stayed afloat during the financial and resource crisis by jacking up its fares, to the point where they can run flights into space with only one passenger. They have done nothing to improve their in-flight movie offerings, and the mega-rich passenger has lapsed into unconsciousness. Overpaid and underworked, the hostesses amuse themselves by trying out hairstyles inside their wearable hair salons and practising new tricks with velcro. They pull the old fountain pen gag on him but we never find out if it was successful.
The space station is only half finished, but they did the food franchises first. Heywood, the mega-rich traveller, calls home, only to discover he has forgotten not only his daughter's birthday but also her name. Maybe it's a wrong number. He joins some foreigners from another corporation, modelling a new line in drab, who are curious about what he's doing there. If he does know what they're talking about, he doesn't let on.
Heywood wanders into a conference center on the moon. He is still space-lagged, and when called upon to address the conference he falls back on a ruse he has always found useful: claim that there is a serious security threat and people must temporarily suspend their rights and liberties. This has many advantages. It shuts them up, so they don't question him closely and figure out he has no idea what's going on. Moreover, he can do whatever he likes with impunity. No wonder he's mega-rich.
Then they take a bus to a crater. There is the cool product again. This is the launch for the mega-rich. The goth launch must have been viral marketing. They line up for a photo but someone has left a cell phone turned on and it has a seriously bad ring tone.
Now we join another mega-rich couple, Frank and Dave, on a cruise to Jupiter. They are disappointed and bored. The girls on the ship are frigid. Dave and Frank don't seem too interested in each other either. Maybe they are taking super-strong meds. The only other person they have to talk to is the computer, Hal, who acts nice but is ultra-competitive. They can watch TV but they can only get educational channels.
Then Hal tells them the antenna is going to break. They welcome the opportunity to take a recreational vehicle out for a run to fix it, but it turns out not to be broken. No problem, says Hal, put it back and wait till it breaks.
Huh? Frank and Dave sneak off for a quiet moment in an RV pod, to get some privacy and gossip about Hal. In the whole discussion, they never mention what a dumb idea it is to fix something, then put the broken part back and wait till it really breaks. There are three conscious intelligences on this ship and between them they can't change a light bulb. Meanwhile Hal reads their lips and knows all the bitchy things they are saying about him.
Hal expresses emotion by staring without emotion out of his strange red eye with the yellow pupil. And he always sounds reasonable. This is how we know he is a complete psycho.
Frank and Dave don't express emotion at all. Apart from the meds, they are afraid of getting thrown off the cruise. Even though they are mega-rich, they are still at the mercy of the tour operators.
Frank goes out in the RV to unfix the antenna. His RV runs amok and sends him barreling off into space with no oxygen. Dave heads out in another RV to save him. He manages to catch him, but when he returns to the ship, Hal won't let him in.
Dave: Open the pod bay doors, Hal.
Hal: I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.
Dave: What's the problem?
Hal: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
It is at this point that we know either Hal or Dave is doomed. There is no mutually satisfactory way to end a conversation in which someone says that last line.
Dave gets back into the ship with a move so weird Hal could not compute it. He blows himself through the emergency door and smashes his head into the end of the airlock. Hal, who respects intelligence, cannot anticipate macho insanity.
Dave's trip is now totally ruined. He takes it out on Hal, by turning off his memory so that Hal forgets how to sing A Bicycle Built for Two. Dave is now on a cruise for one. By the time he reaches Jupiter he is so far into his meds that he can't see straight. He takes the RV out for sightseeing. We see the product again but maybe it's just an ad on the heads-up display.
Jupiter is picturesque but overwhelming, the pod computer starts cycling through its screensavers, the only thing in the CD player is techno-ambience, and Dave just wants to get to his hotel and take a shower. Then the nightmare really begins.
We see his hotel. The décor is terrible and Dave can't find an entertainment system or an exit. Dave keeps hoping other people are in his room but it's only him. As he dies he sees the product again, and realizes his whole life, maybe all human history, is placement for a product whose brand he doesn't even know. In his last moments he imagines a heaven where he can float around space listening to popular classics, his preferred genre.
We leave the viewer with this disquieting warning: You can spend any amount of money on a trip, and still end up stuck in a really bad hotel.