Check out a first look at Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell

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Apr 14, 2016, 3:53 PM EDT

Here's a first peek at Scarlett Johansson's cyborg operative, Major Motoko Kusanagi, in Paramount and Dreamworks' adaptation of the classic Ghost in the Shell anime and manga sensation created by Masamune Shirow back in 1989.   The studio chose this moment to tease the image of Johansson's "The Major" to celebrate the start of production on their futuristic cop thriller in Wellington, New Zealand.  

With a screenplay draft by Jonathan Herman (Straight Outta Compton) and directed by Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman), this big-budget cyber odyssey also stars Beat Takeshi Kitano (Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence), Kaori Momoi (Memoirs of a Geisha), Chin Han (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Danusia Samal (Tyrant), Lasarus Ratuere (Terra Nova), Michael Pitt (Hannibal) and Pilou Asbæk (Lucy).

Here's the official synopsis:

Based on the internationally-acclaimed sci-fi property, “GHOST IN THE SHELL” follows the Major, a special ops, one-of-a-kind human-cyborg hybrid, who leads the elite task force Section 9. Devoted to stopping the most dangerous criminals and extremists, Section 9 is faced with an enemy whose singular goal is to wipe out Hanka Robotic’s advancements in cyber technology.

When casting was announced last year, avid fans were extremely vocal in their protests against the whitewashing of traditionally Asian characters, with a petition to DreamWorks that garnered 65,678 supporters.  Suicide Squad's Margot Robbie was also in consideration before producers and director made their final choice.

Petition creator Julie Rodriguez explained the serious issue:

Fans of the iconic 1995 animated Japanese sci-fi film Ghost in the Shell have been anticipating a live-action remake for years -- but now, instead of casting an Asian actress, Dreamworks has selected Scarlett Johansson for the lead role! The film revolves around Major Motoko Kusanagi, a member of a futuristic security force tasked with tracking a mysterious hacker.

The original film is set in Japan, and the major cast members are Japanese. So why would the American remake star a white actress? The industry is already unfriendly to Asian actors without roles in major films being changed to exclude them. One recent survey found that in 2013, Asian characters made up only 4.4% of speaking roles in top-grossing Hollywood films.

Dreamworks could be using this film to help provide opportunities for Asian-American actors in a market with few opportunities for them to shine — please sign the petition asking them to reconsider casting Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell and select actors who are truer to the cast of the original film!

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. star Ming-Na Wen took to Twitter today to voice her opinion:

What are your thoughts on Johansson's casting and the whole whitewashing controversy?

Ghost In The Shell strikes theaters on March 31, 2017.

(Via Comic Book Movie)