'ROM' Movie Secures 'Ready Player One' Screenwriter Zak Penn

As Ready Player One is poised to hit theaters, screenwriter Zak Penn has found a new gig: writing a ROM movie.

Paramount Pictures is hard up for franchises, and they're turning to toys to save the day: the studio is working on bringing a Hasbro Cinematic Universe to life – yes, really – and a movie based on the ROM toy (and subsequent comic series) from the late 1970s is apparently an important piece of that puzzle.

So what the heck is a ROM, you ask? I was wondering the same thing. ROM (short for read-only memory) is a toy created in the late '70s that was then licensed to Marvel Comics, who gave the protagonist its own comic series. (IDW Comics currently publishes a modern run of ROM comics.) ROM, or ROM the Spaceknight, is a cyborg who hails from the technologically advanced planet Galador. In the comics, ROM held off an invading race called the Dire Wraiths, shapeshifters who relied on dark magic to change their appearance. They fought their way across the universe and brought the battle to Earth.

Deadline says Penn is "a true fan of Hasbro's brands" and says he's "always loved the property," so I guess that makes him the perfect choice to write this movie. (Seriously, how many people do you know who would call themselves a ROM fan?)

Hasbro has been trying for years to launch its own cinematic universe, connecting the Transformers and G.I. Joe franchises with more movies based on toys like Micronauts, M.A.S.K. (Mobile Armored Strike Kommand), and The Visionaries. There hasn't been much movement so far, though the company did hire their own writers' room to try to crank out some ideas for possible scripts. Early this year, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein (Game Night, Spider-Man: Homecoming) – two of the writers who were a part of that room – explained that they didn't think a ROM movie would ever see the light of day. But someone at the studio must have taken to Penn's pitch, because it seems like the wheels are finally turning for this long-brewing toy adaptation.

Penn has written a ton of ostensibly geek-friendly movies based on Marvel characters, including Elektra, X-Men: The Last Stand, The Incredible Hulk, and The Avengers – some of which are clearly better than others. I'm curious to see what he can do with a property that's not nearly as recognizable to mainstream audiences, but I can't honestly say I'm excited about the idea of seeing this cinematic universe come to pass. Maybe the ROM movie will end up being the missing ingredient that energizes this nascent universe, but I'm not holding my breath.