"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.
Both sides are armed and wary, and a language barrier increases the tension.
One of Powell's men gets trigger happy and kills an Apache, a gunfight breaks out.
Carter takes the chance to run off, but Colonel Powell is shot, and Carter returns to retrieve the injured man.
The two escape into a box canyon and find a small cave. The Apache approach but quickly withdraw, cowering as if in fear. Carter and Powell are puzzled by the Apaches' retreat.
Carter returns to where the Apache had been standing, and notices a spider symbol on the rock face.
Leaving Powell near the opening, he goes deeper into the cave to investigate. There Carter finds a chamber with strange markings . . . and he finds gold embedded in the cave walls.
Entranced, he misses the stranger who appears behind him, and Powell is almost too late to shout a warning. The stranger is a bald man in a shining robe with a knife that seemed to have manifested out of thin air.
The two fight, Carter shoots the other and notices that the bald man had retrieved a blue-glowing medallion.
Picking it up, Carter repeats the words he heard the other say, and suddenly he awakes in a strange desert.
Carter tries to walk but stumbles and appears to float. He spends several minutes learning how to walk in in this strange new environment. (The gravity is much lower than what he's accustomed to, but he doesn't know that.)
He makes his way to the nearby tor and finds a nest of eggs hatching green six-limbed infants.
Disturbed, he is about to leave when he notices a group of green creatures approaching. They are mounted on large beasts and armed with firearms, and when they see Carter they open fire until one of them tells the others to stop.
This tall green alien with 4 arms lays down his sword and rifle and greets Carter. As with the Apaches, there's a language barrier but the two manage to give their names. The green man is Tars Tarkas, the Jeddak, or leader, of his tribe.
Tarkas knows Carter is not a local, and asks him to jump again. Carter takes the chance to jump towards Tarkas' weapons, but before he can fight he is overpowered.
Again Tarkas waves off the rest of his group, telling them to spare Carter. They collect the hatchlings, killing those who seem too weak, and take Carter to their home in the ruins of an ancient city.
By this time Carter is horrified and out of his depth, he wants to go home and knows the medallion is likely the only way. Unfortunately, Tarkas has recovered the medallion and wears it.