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Paramount releases first Ghost in the Shell image

Scarlett Johansson takes center stage

Paramount and Dreamworks' controversial Ghost in the Shell adaptation has begun production, and today, the studios released the first image of star Scarlett Johansson as main character Major Motoko Kusanagi — or as she's simply known in the film "the Major."

Based on the popular Japanese manga of the same name, Ghost in the Shell follows the human-cyborg hybrid special agent the Major, who can be seen in the image above. She and the rest of her trained soldiers, who work under the Section 9 banner, are tasked with taking down an extremist terrorist organization who want to destroy Hanka Robotics' advancements in cyber technology.

Both the studios and Johansson have received quite a bit of blowback over claims that Paramount and Dreamworks were whitewashing the film. When it was announced that Johansson would be playing the main role, a group launched a petition to have her replaced with an Asian actress. The petition, which garnered over 15,000 signatures, pointed out there was no reason a white, American actress had to star in the film when there were plenty of Asian — or even specifically Japanese — actresses better suited to perform the role of a native Japanese woman who'd chosen to become a cyborg, and whose synthetic physical appearance was chosen to allow her to continue to blend in with the population of Tokyo.

Johansson was reportedly wary of taking the role when it was first offered to her, but eventually agreed to star in the film, according to Variety. The magazine also reported that Paramount and Dreamworks weren't willing to go forward with the movie unless Johansson was on board.

The actress will be joined by Michael Pitt, Beat Takeshi and Juliette Binoche. Ghost in the Shell is scheduled to be released March 31, 2017.

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