"Mars . . . so you name it and think that you know it. The Red Planet, no air, no life, but you do not know Mars. For it's true name is Barsoom. And it is not airless nor is it dead, but is dying."
"The city of Zodanga saw to that. Zodanga, the predator city, moving, devouring, draining Barsoom of energy and life."
"Only the great city of Helium dared resist, stood strong, matched airship for airship, holding fast for a thousand years."
"Until one day the rulers became cornered in a sandstorm . . . and everything changed."
Warriors of Helium attack the ship of Sab Than, the Jeddak of Zodanga.
Swords are drawn as the Helium warriors board the Zodanga ship, a great battle rages on. One side blue and the other side red.
Suddenly a powerful force strikes and destroys the Helium ships along with the warriors of both armies, except for Sab Than.
On the red ship, three bald figures float down onto the ship and approach Sab Than.
They give him a blue mesh device, it morphs onto his hand.
He realizes it's a weapon that gives him the ability to shoot bolts of energy, but when he tries to shoot the three figures he is instead blasted backwards. They are Therns, representatives of the Goddess.
The Thern leader, Matai Shang, "We serve the Goddess . . . and she has chosen you to receive this weapon. Do as we command and you will rule all of Barsoom. . . with none to defy you. . . and nothing to stand in your way."
In New York City, 1881, a man eludes another in the crowded streets. He appears anxious, and eventually enters a building.
Inside he pays extra to send a telegram special delivery.
A young man receives the telegram -- his uncle is urging him to hurry and save him.
The young man travels to the uncle's large estate where a lawyer explains the uncle, John Carter, died suddenly and left everything to the young man.
He passes the young man, Edgar Rice Burroughs, an old diary.
After the lawyer leaves, the young man begins to read. The story begins in Arizona, after the Civil War. John Carter, a decorated former captain in the Confederate Army, is prospecting for gold.
The locals don't seem to like him. Colonel Powell of the cavalry tries to press Carter into service to fight the Apache.
Carter refuses to cooperate, and after several failed escape attempts, he tricks a cell guard and escapes Fort Grant on a stolen horse.
Powell and the rest of the cavalry give chase but are forced to halt when they see that Carter has met up with a mounted Apache war band.