Edgar Rice Burroughs’Explanations
INTRODUCTIONA movie version of A PRINCESS OF MARS has been rumored about for years. First there was John McTiernan at Disney, (who did have the good sense to hire Mr. William Stout as one of his Production Designers) then the project went pretty much dormant until Robert Rodriguez inherited it and the world trembled in excitement (cuz Rodriguez is an avowed Frazetta freak and Salma Hayek would be his Dejah Thoris of choice!) Then the troublemaker had a falling out with the Directors Guild over Frank Miller and Sin City and Universal passed the property along to Kerry Conran of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The movie was last attached to John Favre of Swingers and Zathura fame before the plug was pulled again with some finality.
(And now, PIXAR STUDIOS has snagged the property as of Summer 2007…)
Directors came and went, green lights went on and off, but one constant seemed to remain. . .
The constant complaint of the difficulty of writing a good script for the franchise.
This was hard to believe. (Especially when such writers as George R. R. Martin, Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio had worked on various adaptations.) The source material was good juicy stuff. A PRINCESS OF MARS had held up to almost a hundred years of changing pulp culture appetites, surely it could hold up to a Hollywood screen treatment.
Of course, then I asked myself: “So how would you do it, bigmouth?”
And so began my own adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A PRINCESS OF MARS.
I first started kicking it around as daydream material, a mental exercise in story construction on my commute to and fro work. Nothing serious. Just having fun and killing time in traffic… but I quickly realized that my “story exercise” was worthy of being put down on paper.
Of course, I realized that all my work was really just an exercise in futility. There is no way that Hollywood would take my adaptation seriously. I always knew that. I just wanted to prove that a movie could be written that was faithful to original novel while still delivering to today’s jaded movie audiences... in case anyone ever happened to ask me.
Plus it was an excuse to keep from working on projects around the house.
From Book to Movie
The first step in the adaptation process was to read the novel again.
The original novel was written way back in July through September in the Year of Our Lord 1911. It was originally a serialized in The All-Story magazine from February to July of 1912 and was not collected and published as a single book until 1917.
Now there are plenty of things to critique about the original novel. But try to judge it in context of the popular culture of that time period.
Remember, Burroughs had no real aspirations for his writings beyond simply telling a good story. And this was, in fact, his first novel and potboiler science fiction at that. Story logic wasn’t necessary as exotic locations and cool creatures. It was also published almost a hundred years ago. Tastes, styles and taboos are far different these days.
Some of the weaknesses in the original novel will have to be addressed for today’s more sophisticated (or perhaps jaded) audience.
To begin with, there is Burroughs’ rather limited explanation of exactly How and Why Carter came to be on Mars in the first place. The astral projection angle won’t cut it for today’s audience. It would have to be re-conceived.
The movie version makes it clear that it is no accident that Carter is on Mars.
Carter was brought to Mars for a purpose. A purpose that our franchise hero will learn as he swashbuckles his way through the first three movies...
This new explanation also gives us an opportunity to build some backstory and subplots into the franchise’s initial storyline... (Note: See separate “Machinations” document for details.)
Since the original story was not intended to be part of a trilogy (or an eleven-book series, for that matter) the first movie must also establish the various characters and sub-plots that come to fruition in the two movie sequels.
I’m starting to babble again… let’s move on.
The main objective, of course, of any successful adaptation of ERB’s A PRINCESS OF MARS, is to establish “John Carter of Mars” as a successful movie franchise and property for Universal, starting with ERB’s first Mars novel.
However, there are also a number of other equally important objectives.• Save as much of the flavor and imagery of the original Burroughs novel as possible.I think I did all of it... All of it but the last part.
• Establish JOHN CARTER as a swashbuckling hero of a continuing franchise series.
• Beef up the role of DEJAH THORIS for the modern audience. She might still wear a teeny weeny metal bikini but this Princess is not the stereotypical damsel in distress.
• THE THARKS are the real stars of the movie. CG will allow the four-armed green giants to be fully realized as never before possible. The movie will explore the Tharks and their barbaric culture as the original books never did.
• “TARS TARKAS” is an opportunity to create a CG character as iconic as “Gollum”.
• The Airships or “FLIERS” are also important visual icons of ERB’s Mars. The “speedboats on air” should be used in suitably colorful ways to help establish their importance to the franchise.
• BARSOOM is another star of the series. Burroughs populated it with many colorful creations. It will be important to make the alien landscape come to life for the audience.
• And don’t forget the requisite Lord Of The Rings battle sequences. (Tharks & Airships!)
• Plus introduce the various characters and set-up the plotlines that will be involved in the sequels. Plotlines that will help tie the first three “Carter” movies together as a more cohesive trilogy.
• Bring it all in at under 120 minutes.
The Cutting Room Floor
The original novel wasn’t plotted for a two-hour movie. Some liberties would have to be taken with ERB’s original storyline. Still, the guiding principal to any adaptation is to remain as faithful to ERB’s original story as possible.
The first deletions were easy.
Carter’s experiences in the Arizona Cave were re-worked as well as the entire “Return to Earth” Ending. (The franchise hero is not going back to Earth.) Carter’s Visit to the Atmosphere Factory (Though the Factory returns as a location in a later draft) and his climatic last gasp heroics don’t make it either.
Nothing was thrown out in the first draft because of length. Only story value. And other elements were added into the story to help build a coherent movie trilogy.
The first draft came in at a Six-Hour Movie.
(Or Two Movies! The first, “John Carter of Mars” - with the more commercial title to start the franchise off - adapts the first half of the novel, from his arrival on Mars up to his capture by the horrible Warhoons! The second, “A Princess of Mars”, adapts the second half of the novel and establishes Carter as a franchise hero. The movies would be shot back-to-back Lord of the Rings-style and released in same strategy as The Matrix sequels. One at Memorial Day, the other at Labor... but I digress.)
Things had to get drastic if the Burroughs’ story was growing to fit into a single movie. So I started hacking away...
Even the fan-favorite Tharks got hit with both “Child-Raising on Mars” and the Warhoon Incubator sequence getting the axe... Same with Carter and Kantos in the barbaric gladiator contests of the Great Games, along with “Eyes In The Dark” chapter in the Warhoon Dungeons... The End of Act II and most of Act III were extensively re-worked, throwing out Carter’s undercover stint in the Zodangan Air Squadron as well as much of the Zodanga War...
In the end, ERB’s story was broken down into three acts with a fourth for clean-up and sequel set-up. A short prologue was added to spill some Martian backstory before the Apache attack.
As mentioned earlier, some liberties had to be taken with Burroughs’ storyline but I think it is as close to the original as anyone in Hollywood could hope for...
So does anyone out there know anyone at Pixar..?
Introduction To Story TreatmentLet me assure you that I never seriously thought about writing a full script (Now, that would be a waste of time) of A PRINCESS OF MARS. I have outgrown any delusions of Hollywood glory. It really was just a fun way to kill time on my drive back and forth from work. But once I got it into my computer there was no stopping me.
My initial goal was to create a decent movie outline based on Burroughs’ novel. But the initial outline quickly grew into a full storyline and then to an even more detailed story treatment... I’m going to shut up now. No more foreplay. It’s time to get to the main event.
The stars glitter above the twin towers of proud HELIUM. A voluptuous figure is standing on a balcony of the Jeddak’s Palace. DEJAH THORIS is staring up at the blue-green star of EARTH in the Martian sky as TARDOS MORS, her grandfather and “Jeddak” of Helium, joins her.
Their talk quickly turns to BACKSTORY...
(Note: This exposition-filled Prologue introduces several NEW SUBPLOTS that will be revealed & developed through the movie trilogy. These Subplots are detailed in the Appendix document.)
Mars (or “BARSOOM”) is dying. Only the Atmosphere Factories, featuring technology inherited from the past golden age of the Orovars, keep the planet breathing. No one knows how to fix the machines. It is only a matter of time before Barsoom and all of her inhabitants die.
This inevitability has led to conflict in the Councils of Power. THE SCIENCE COUNCIL wants to re-learn the forgotten knowledge of the past to save Barsoom, while THE HOLY THERNS claim the Gods are punishing Barsoom and all must turn to the RELIGION OF ISSUS to save themselves.
Dejah and Tardos are joined by a well-preserved sixty-year-old (though he is actually closer to a thousand). It is RAS THAVAS. The so-called “Mastermind of Mars” is a major player in the Mars franchise. The scientific genius has completed his “TRANS-PORTAL“ device. It is a gateway through time/space to Earth. The device can transport objects from “Jasoom” to Barsoom.
(Note: The Trans-Portal is also a Time Machine. Ras has been tinkering around with Time. The Mastermind has a secret agenda of his own. An agenda that brings Carter from Earth to Mars.)
Ras proposes using the Trans-Portal to save Barsoom... by fulfilling the Ancient Prophecy.
The Scientist refers to the “Ancient Prophecy” promising a Hero to appear in Barsoom’s hour of greatest need. A Hero from Another World. (This new “Prophecy” plotline is part of a greater conspiracy featuring Ras Thavas and his Time Machine. Again, read the Appendix for details.)
Tardos Mors agrees that it is indeed the Hour of Barsoom’s Greatest Need.
Ras Thavas goes off to fetch a Hero from Jasoom while Tardos waits with the Princess of Mars...
COPY TREATMENT over a MONTAGE of IMAGES from “A PRINCESS OF MARS”. Think of it as a genre “James Bond” title sequence as designed by the one and only Frazetta.
Heavy on the Dejah, please…
The TITLE SEQUENCE becomes A DREAM SEQUENCE from which...
JOHN CARTER of Virginia suddenly bolts awake with a start. He has been dreaming.
JIM POWELL, fellow Confederate vet and now prospecting partner, looks over at him. It is 1866. The Civil War is finally over. Their clothes reveal they are veterans of the South. Powell is cooking breakfast. It is morning and Carter has overslept. We see their PROSPECTING CAMP in bkg.
“Dreaming about the war again?”
“No, not the war.” Carter sits up from his bedroll and wipes the sleep out of his eyes. He didn’t sleep very well... Thanks to the secret machinations of Ras Thavas, Carter’s sleep has been haunted with images of “the most beautiful woman on two worlds”.
“Oh.” Powell says knowingly. “‘The Woman’ again.”
“The Woman”. It is always the same woman. Copper-skinned, raven-hair. Impossibly gorgeous. The most beautiful woman Carter has ever dreamed of, let alone ever seen.
“Sometimes I wonder if the reason we came out west in the first place was to find this red-skinned woman of yours.”
“Sorry to disappoint you, Jim.“ Carter helps himself to breakfast. “But I came out west for the same reason you did. To break my back panning for... rock.”
The two rookie prospectors finish up their breakfast and get to work in a short MONTAGE that demonstrates their efforts and lack of success at panning for gold.
Carter & Powell take a breather to spill more exposition, revealing more of their Civil War background and setting up our franchise hero’s innate abilities.
“Y'know, back in the war, I always wondered how you did it. How you always knew which way the Yankees were coming. Almost like you could sense danger before it happened.“
“My mama always claimed that I had been gifted with a Sixth Sense,” admits Carter. “Or a Guardian Angel. I don’t rightly know what it is. But I do know that it has saved my skin many a time.” (Don’t blame me. It was ERB who gave Carter telepathic powers in the first place.)
“Well,” suggests Powell. “Perhaps you can turn your thoughts to divinin’ us up some gold.”
Suddenly the birds stop singing. Carter’s “sixth sense” kicks in... They are in danger.
“What is it? Indians?” Powell asks as he puts down his shovel and looks for his gun. Both know they are in Apache territory. Carter reaches out with his senses, trying to locate the danger...
THE APACHES attack without warning. Powell is killed before he can fire a shot. Thanks to his telepathic gift, Carter is able to escape the Indians’ initial assault and runs for his life...
Carter runs into the hills, the Apache hot on his trail. Carter needs someplace to hide…
Carter spots A CAVE. He runs inside. The Apaches follow his trail and stop outside the cave. For some reason the hunters refuse to follow their prey into the dark cave.
Carter lights a makeshift torch and discovers AN ANCIENT SKELETON in the cave. He takes a closer look at the bones. A normal enough skeleton but wears STRANGE CLOTHING. Why does it hold A SWORD? The skeleton must be the reason why the Indians are afraid to come inside.
Outside, the Apaches, and their threat, fade away into the Arizona night. Inside, Carter has forgotten all about them. He takes a closer look at the skeleton. The ancient bones, with their mysterious sword, appear to be guarding SOMETHING. But what?
The skeleton is seated next to a strange piece of furniture. Carter moves closer...
It appears to be AN EMPTY FRAME. It is oval. The frame is more likely from a mirror than a painting. It is fashioned in a style and out of a material unlike anything Carter has ever seen. (This is Ras Thavas’ PORTAL DEVICE. This is the Gateway from Earth to swashbuckling Mars.)
Carter’s physical proximity activates the Device. The frame fills with rippling patterns of light that focus into recognizable images. Carter doesn’t know why images of the planet Mars, blood-red on a starfield, fill the portal’s projection surface, followed by visions of ochre deserts under two moons…
Carter steps away, intending to turn and flee, but stops when the portal begins to display images familiar from his dreams... Glimpses of a woman. Copper skin, raven hair. The Woman.
Carter knows that she is waiting for him on the other side of the Portal. He has no choice but to follow. (Ras has baited the hook well.) Our hero picks up the sword for protection.
John Carter of Earth steps through the portal…
There is “an instant of extreme cold and utter darkness”.
JOHN CARTER OF MARS stumbles out of the other side of the portal and falls onto the ground.
Carter realizes he is no longer holding the sword. He looks around. He can’t find sword or Portal but he is still wearing his clothes. (Unlike Burroughs’ version, movie Carter shows up in pants.)
Carter looks around again. He is standing alone in the middle of A DESERT WASTELAND. The desert has the distinctive look of an ocean sea-bed, with the weathered ridges covered in an ochre moss. He knows he is no longer on earth. Everything feels different. But where is he?
Carter stands up too quickly and bounces a dozen feet into the air before landing in an undignified heap. (The earthman is unaware that HE IS BEING WATCHED from the distance.)
Carter stands up the next time more gingerly. He has to learn how to walk all over again. He quickly masters his superhuman abilities in a series of “learning-to-walk” gags. He discovers that he has enhanced physical powers from the lighter Martian gravity. He can jump great distances.
Carter spots a BUILDING in the distance. He leaps-and-bounds over to the structure for a closer look. It has a glass roof. So Carter jumps up and looks inside. (THE WATCHERS move closer.)
The interior is filled with rows of LARGE EGGS. There are several hundred of the leathery eggs. The building is obviously an INCUBATOR. Some of the eggs have already hatched. The Hatchlings are pale olive green. The creatures have two arms, two legs, and an intermediary set of limbs that function as either. Intro BABY THARKS.
Carter’s sixth sense suddenly alerts him... He turns just in time to dodge a THROWN SPEAR!
THE WATCHERS reveal themselves. A BAND OF ADULT THARKS has ridden up from behind and taken Carter by surprise. The four-armed creatures are 12 feet tall and armed with swords, spears and radium rifles. Leather harnesses crisscross their torsos, holding scabbards and more weapons. Their green bodies are tattooed and the monsters’ fearsome tusks look to be engraved.
The Thark warriors each ride a monstrous eight-legged mount called a THOAT. The Tharks wear barbaric ornaments and tribal tattoos. Splashes of warpaint adorn their eight-legged “ponies”. The beasts have no hooves - there are no hoofed animals on Mars - explaining their soft step.
(Note: THE THARKS were very important to the original success of ERB’s series. And the four-armed green giants will be just as important to the success of any Martian film franchise.)
Carter doesn't have time to be amazed. THE LEAD RIDER readies a second spear for the human. Carter uses his earth-strength to leap over the rider’s head and out of the lance's range.
The Tharks are duly impressed. The Green Martians decide to capture Carter instead of simply killing the stranger as is their savage way. (They were content to watch the stranger’s odd antics from a distance until he jumped up on the incubator and endangered their eggs.)
TARS TARKAS is the leader of the Thark riders. He dismounts and presents himself to Carter.
The green man uses sign-language to communicate with the earthman. Tars points to himself and says “Tars Tarkas” then he points to Carter. He gives his name. (“Kar-Tar” is the closest the Tharks can get to pronouncing Carter’s earth-name through their mouthful of tusks.)
Tars Tarkas sign-languages that he means Carter no harm. Tars wants him to come with them. Carter accepts the invitation. The earthman doesn’t have any other place to go.
(Note: Since he can’t speak Martian, Carter will share his thoughts with the audience via VOICEOVER NARRATION. It will be used most heavily during his early days with the Tharks.)
Tars Tarkas sees that Carter is mounted on a spare Thoat before the Thark chieftain climbs back up on his own Thoat. Tars shouts out instructions and the Thark patrol quickly falls into single-file formation (to hide their footprints’ true numbers) and move out into the desolate wasteland.
Carter is almost thrown from his Thoat as the beast lurches forward but manages to hang on for dear life. The Tharks laugh at him. Carter adapts to his mount’s oversized saddle and harness.
Carter takes in the view as the Tharks thunder across the dry sea beds of Barsoom. The SUN is smaller in Mars’ sky than on earth’s. TWIN MOONS rise as the sun sets. It is a beautiful scene.
Carter spots an outcropping of RUINS in the distance. His voiceover lets us know that it appears to be the Tharks’ destination.
Tars Tarkas leads the patrol into the ruins of the dead city of KORAD. The barbarians ride through the crumbling remnants of an older, more advanced civilization. Thark territorial graffiti emblazon the broken walls. The designs are similar to the riders’ tattoos and Thoats’ warpaint.
The Tharks return to the MAIN CAMP in the town plaza. The riders are greeted by THE THARK TRIBE, several hundred strong. THARK WOMEN & CHILDREN run out to welcome the patrol back only to stop in surprise at the sight of Tars' unusual Guest.
Carter begins to feel self-conscious among the four-armed giants. He keeps close to Tars.
The Thark patrol dismounts outside the stables. Servants rush out to tend to the riders' thoats. Carter recognizes the scene from his old cavalry days.
Tars Tarkas must report to the tribe's leader and he gestures to Carter to follow him. Carter walks with Tars through the Thark Camp. We observe the Tharks in their native element. The nomads share many visible similarities w/ Earth's desert tribes.
Tars brings Carter to AN ANCIENT BUILDING. The Tharks hold their Tribal Council inside the white marble structure. Tars leads Carter up the front steps and inside the COUNCIL BUILDING.
Inside, the white marble is inlaid with gold & gemstones, though most is missing. Carter notes the furnishings appear to be more appropriate for beings his height. It has been renovated for the Tharks' use. (Doorways smashed to allow for the green giants’ passage, etc.) Tars stops outside a pair of double doors. TWO THARK GUARDS salute Tars and open the doors for him.
Carter follows Tars Tarkas inside the AUDIENCE CHAMBER.
THE THARK COUNCIL is already in session. The chieftains are gathered inside waiting to hear Tars' Report. The Thark Elders are an ominous sight to Carter. They are led by LORQUAS PTOMEL. The four-armed giant’s harness decorations declare him Jed of Tharks.
Tars greets his fellow chieftains. He tells his story of finding the strange white man ("No, he is not a Thern.") and Kar-Tar’s unbelievable jumping abilities.
The Chieftains don’t believe Tars. They demand that Carter demonstrates his jumping skills. Tars gestures to his new pet to do a trick. Carter has no choice but to oblige. But, still getting control of his earth powers on Mars, Carter slips and falls. The laughing Tharks are duly unimpressed.
A THARK steps forward and insults the embarrassed Carter. The earthling reacts with a round-house blow to the Thark’s green chin. CARTER’S 1ST FIGHT SCENE ends in one punch. He has broken the brute’s neck. DOTAR lays dead on the chamber floor.
Now the Tharks are impressed. Waiting for retaliation from the green barbarians, Carter is startled when the Tharks howl in laughter at their fellow's defeat by the puny human.
Tars picks up the dead Thark’s oversized sword and gives it to Carter. By right of mortal combat, Carter is now an honorary Thark. In fact, the victor’s name “Dotar” is now his own.
The Thark Council decides to let Carter live. Lorquas shouts for the Council’s servants.
Several FEMALE THARKS hurry into the Council Chamber. Lorquas orders them to clean up the mess. One female overreacts to the sight of dead Dotar on the floor. Intro SARKOJA. It seems that she knew Dotar. She looks around for his killer, her Thark features twisted in fury.
Lorquas laughs at Sarkoja’s emotions. He introduces the female Thark to her new master and lover: “Dotar Kar-Tar”. As is the way of the Thark, to the winner of mortal combat goes all the vanquished’s property and wives. Sarkoja is now Carter’s to do with as he sees fit.
Carter tries to turn down Lorquas’ generosity but he only insults the Thark Jed. The earthman has no choice but to graciously accept the female slave. Sarkoja eyes Carter with evil intent...
Tars Tarkas wisely steps forward and exchanges a member of his own household for the obviously dangerous Sarkoja. Intro SOLA. Tars orders Sola to help Carter adjust to Thark life.
Sola leads Carter back through the THARK CAMP and to his NEW APARTMENTS. His suite has several rooms. A kitchen, bedrooms, toilet., slave quarters... The apartment is dressed with Thark gear & weapons, all visual clues to the Green Martians’ barbaric culture.
Carter’s sixth sense suddenly starts tingling... SOMETHING MOVES in the shadows.
A MONSTER steps out of an anteroom’s shadows and reveals itself. Intro WOOLA. He is a Shetland pony-sized creature with frog-like head and jaws equipped with rows of fangs.
Sola is not frightened of the creature. She barks some rough Martian at the calot and Woola grudgingly sits back on his haunches. She teaches Carter its name. “Woo-La”. Woola's eyes never leave Carter. He realizes the creature is a Watch "Dog”.
Sola’s first task is to re-tailor Carter’s Thark harness to his scale. As she takes Carter’s measurements, she begins to instruct him in the Martian Language...
(Note: ERB could spend several chapters in his book teaching Carter to speak Martian, but a movie needs to break the language barrier a whole lot faster so we have taken the liberty of creating a deus ex machina to keep the story moving along at Hollywood speed.)
Sola holds a GLOWING JEWEL. She explains that it is an Orovar Translator but Carter doesn’t understand a word she is saying... So she presses the jewel to his forehead to demonstrate its abilities. Sola yammers some Martian and the jewel allows Carter to hear it as “My name is Sola.”
Carter’s Lesson is interrupted by the arrival of SEVERAL SERVANTS. They enter Carter’s new chambers bearing loads of weapons, silks, and utensils. They are the retinue and possessions of Dotar and are now Carter’s to command.
Carter hands the jewel back to Sola so it can translate his instructions. He tells her that she is to run the day-to-day operation of his household for him until he can properly speak their language. Sola understands and sends her master’s new retinue to their quarters.
LATER THAT NIGHT, Carter is alone in his sleeping chamber. The glowing jewel rests on his forehead - teaching him Thark while he sleeps - but Carter isn’t sleeping. His head is too full. The Indian attack, Powell’s death, the Portal, the Tharks, his dreams of a impossible goddess...
Carter removes the language jewel and climbs out of bed. He takes his oversized Thark sword out on the balcony for some exercise. The sword appears way too large for him but with his earth strength Carter wields it easily. His moonlight exercise is interrupted by a SERIES OF GROWLS..
Woola, thinking Carter is trying to escape, confronts the earthman.
Carter escapes the watch dog by simply jumping off the balcony to the street below and bounding off into the dark. Woola stares out the open window after his fugitive ward.
Sword balanced over his shoulder, Carter explores the DESERTED CITY. Korad’s ruins may be ancient but they still look more recent than the ruins of Greece or Rome.
There is A SUDDEN NOISE behind Carter. SOMETHING jumps out of the darkness. It is Woola! The calot has followed him. He can’t tell if the growls are angry or playful. Carter eludes the watch dog again by jumping thirty feet up into a dark window of one of the ruined buildings.
Carter is congratulating himself on his easy escape when A GIANT HAND grabs him from behind and hauls him bodily back into the darkness.
Carter twists free of the colossal hand’s grasp and gets his first look at his captor. It is A GIANT WHITE APE. In fact, he has been caught by A PAIR OF GIANT APES. Husband & Wife.
ERB’s Giant White Apes have four-arms like the Green Martians. The brutes are hairless save for a shock of bristly white fur on their head. The ape-like creatures are also semi-intelligent. The Giant White Apes are key monsters in ERB’s Martian Series so they gotta be kewl as Kong!
Carter is momentarily overwhelmed by the slobbering enormity of what he faces. Sword forgotten, our hero backs away as the monstrous beasts decide to charge the puny human.
Carter is saved from certain death when Woola suddenly bursts through the doorway and leaps upon the nearest gorilla. APE VS CALOT! The animals fight over the human. It is a savage battle. It is sickeningly violent like a real animal fight, not glamorized. Woola yelps out in pain.
Carter remembers his sword at the sound of his pet being hurt. He realizes that Woola was trying to protect him from the Apes. Ever the hero, Carter returns the favor and draws the Monster Apes away from the wounded calot and into his next FIGHT SCENE.
CARTER VS. GIANT APES! Carter manages to kill the Male Ape with his oversized sword but only wounds the Female before the four-armed beast knocks the sword out of his grip. The wounded Ape gathers itself for one final mad attack--
Sola, Tharks & Tars Tarkas arrive on cue to frighten off the surviving Ape. The Female screams in frustration before she lumbers off, escaping before the Green Men can skewer it.
Tars Tarkas walks over and picks up Carter’s fallen sword. He uses his battle mace to break a few feet of length off the sword. “It will do... until blacksmith... re-sizes all your weapons...”
Carter is amazed to discover that he can understand some of what Tars said. The Orovar Jewel really works! He thanks Tars before dropping to the ground in exhaustion.
Sola rushes over and examines her ward’s wounds while the Tharks see to the injured Woola. Carter’s wounds are superficial - Sola can heal them with Tharks’ Miracle First Aid Salve - but from the expression on the Tharks’ faces, Woola’s wounds are much more serious.
The Tharks intend to put the wounded calot out of its misery but the still wobbly Carter leaps up and stops them. He asks Tars for permission to nurse Woola back to health.
Tars Tarkas doesn't know what to make of Carter. He is obviously brave but he is also soft. Carter gathers materials and begins to construct a travois to drag the incapacitated Woola back to camp. Sola understands what the earthling is attempting to build and helps him.
JUST BEFORE DAWN, Tars & Tharks, Carter & Sola, ride back to Korad, dragging the bandaged Woola behind them on his new travois. The big calot almost looks like it is grinning...
DAYS LATER, Carter is enjoying his stay with the Tharks. (Or so his Voiceover Narration tells us.) He hones his martial skills by day with Tars Tarkas and is tutored at night by Sola.
Carter can’t help but observe that Sola is of kinder disposition than the other green Martians. She has befriended Carter and continues schooling him on the Ways of the Tharks. The Orovar Jewel has helped him learn the language overnight but Sola is still helping him hone his rough Thark.
Sola’s tutoring is not only confined to Language. She also schools Carter in THARK HISTORY.
Carter learns that Mars is called “BARSOOM”. It is a world where savage tribes of wild Green Men roam the decaying ruins of a dead civilization. The tribes are in a constant state of war. THARKS are only one tribe of the GREEN MEN of Mars. They are a fierce, nomadic race. It is a tough existence. They can show no weakness, no emotion. Only the strong survive.
Tharks (along w/ most of ERB’s colorful Martian races) can live 1,000 years but the majority die young in battle. Those that reach old age voluntarily, according to the tenets of the RELIGION OF ISSUS, make a final pilgrimage to Valley Dor where paradise awaits for one and all.
Carter doesn’t comment on the Tharks’ religious beliefs. He is a stranger in a strange land. He reserves judgment on their customs. He just soaks all the exposition up along with the viewer.
CARTER & WOOLA’s antics become a familiar sight in the Thark camp. Woola will not leave his side. Tars Tarkas does not know what to make of the human playing with a savage calot.
Carter shows Tars the newest trick he has taught Woola. The calot lifts a forepaw and shakes hands like a dog. Tars laughs. Woola is frightened by laughter. Tharks only laugh at others’ pain.
Carter has to calm down the frightened animal. Tars, for his part, is shocked to realize that he has laughed for a new reason. The Thark joins Carter in playing “fetch” with the barking Woola…
Carter also uses the same mixture of kindness and discipline to train his stable of THOATS. His animals stop snapping and biting. They soon obey their benevolent master’s every command. Tars follows Carter's example with his own Thoats and is rewarded with good results.
Soon all the Thark riders are treating their animals better. (Tars Tarkas’ Riders become renown across Barsoom for their skill with training their thoats.)
One day, LORQUAS PTOMEL and the Thark Council come to watch Tars’ Riders practice their riding drills. The jed is duly impressed with the new discipline of the thoats.
Tars Tarkas volunteers to his jed that it is all due to the animal expertise of “Dotar”.
Lorquas himself walks over and bestows Carter with an anklet of gold in appreciation. Tars quickly bends the gold ornament to make it fit on Carter’s puny arm.
Tars Tarkas seizes the moment of Thark goodwill to make a proposal. He proposes that “Jon Kar-Tar” be made an official member of the Thark tribe. Lorquas & the Council Members agree.
SEVERAL DAYS LATER, The Tharks gather for CARTER’S INITIATION RITUAL. The Males of the Tribe make a circle around a bonfire. Someone is pounding primitive funk on the tribal drums. (Another chance to create original Thark Anthropology.) Tars sponsors Carter in the Naming Ritual.
Carter is made a THARK BLOOD-BROTHER in a Thark Ritual. Think “A Man Called Horse”. Some sort of brutal, bloody ritual to usher young male Tharks into their brutal, bloody adulthood. Tharks do not have witchdoctors or shamans but they do have military order. So it is not a mystical experience. It is more of an endurance challenge.
Carter makes it through the Ritual. Tars helps him to his feet. He has earned his own name. He is now “JON KAR-TAR”.
SOMETIME LATER (his initiation wounds are still bandaged but not seeping), Carter & Tars Tarkas are at sword-practice again. The Thark chieftain has taken a keen interest in the earthman’s development. Tars personally instructs Carter in swordplay.
Carter’s earth-born powers enhance his already established fighting abilities. Now that he has a proper-sized weapon in his hands, John Carter truly becomes the Swordsman of the ERB novels.
(Note: Along with the wet-dream images of Dejah Thoris, Ras Thavas also projected Fencing Lessons, Barsoomian Language for Dummies, among other things, into Carter’s sleep to prepare him for his Martian adventures. Again, see Appendix for all the details.)
Tars enjoys Carter’s companionship, though the gruff Thark would never admit it. Tharks don’t believe in friendship. It is for the soft. But Tars is beginning to doubt the wisdom of the old ways.
Carter is having an effect on the mighty Tars Tarkas. The Thark’s icy veneer is cracking.
Carter and Tars’ friendship is a very important element of the series. Like any “buddy film”, it is the relationship between these two mismatched characters that helps drives the story. Kirk & Spock, Mulder & Scully, Gibson & Glover in the Lethal Weapon series... that’s Carter & Tars Tarkas!
Carter & Tars’ sword practice is interrupted by SUDDEN ACTIVITY in the camp. A THARK SENTRY climbs down from his post shouting. “Intruders are coming! Intruders are coming!”
Tars Tarkas excuses himself from practice and hurries off to meet with Lorquas. Carter sheathes his blade and watches the Tharks make their preparations for the intruders.
Under Tars’ direction, the Tharks quickly set up an ambush. The more agile Tharks climb to the top of the broken towers. Others, armed with radium rifles, hide out of sight in the ruins below. The women and children quickly remove all sign of Thark habitation from sight.
In moments it is as the Tharks had never even been there.
Carter finds a hiding spot and settles down to watch.
THREE FLYING AIRSHIPS quietly glide through the city ruins...
These are the iconic FLIERS of ERB’s Mars (as best seen on the Robert Abbett covers). Think of them as boats that float on air instead of water. The Fliers levitate in thin air on some unseen power. (Explained later.) They come in many different shapes and sizes, from one-man speed fliers to Navy vessels crewed by hundreds. They’re another trademark of ERB’s Martian series.
RAS THAVAS, Mastermind of Mars, stands on the bridge of THE LEAD SHIP. He is fiddling with some kind of gizmo. It is a Tracking Device. He has found the misplaced Hero. “He is here!”
But Ras’ moment of joy is cruelly dashed when A THARK HORN launches the Tharks’ ambush.
The Tharks open fire with their radium rifles from down below. They pick off the SHIP’S GUARDS first then they concentrate their weapons’ fire on the airships’ navigation systems. Ras Thavas leaves the ship’s rail and runs for the control cabin as the Tharks continue their surprise attack.
Ras Thavas runs into the CONTROL CABIN. He finds DEJAH THORIS inside. The Princess is accompanied by her PERSONAL GUARDS. The Scientist tells them to abandon the airship before the Tharks take them all captive. Dejah refuses. She intends to “parley” with the savages.
Ras Thavas was against Dejah coming along on their expedition but she insisted. The scientist has no more time for her. He turns to the “Padwar” of the Princess’ Personal Guard. “Kantos Kan, I leave her in your hands.” The scientist gathers up his materials and hurries out of the cabin.
Intro KANTOS KAN. Young, handsome, noble. A typical Burroughs supporting hero. He is the commander of Dejah’s personal guard. They all share the same copper skin and black hair of Dejah. (The “Red Men” are another of ERB’s colored races.) “Princess, we must leave. Now.”
Dejah Thoris looks up at Kantos’ tone of voice. She reluctantly agrees. Kantos breathes a sigh of relief. He was worried that she was going to cause a scene. He escorts Dejah out of the cabin.
The Lead Ship shudders under the Tharks’ assault. A SAILOR shouts that the ship’s navigation-system has been damaged. The craft threatens to capsize and spill its contents and passengers out over the desert floor below. The Tharks continue their attack, concentrating on the one flier.
The Lead Ship is also on fire. The thick smoke soon engulfs the airship, obscuring our vision.
A SECOND FLIER maneuvers next to the wounded airship. The other flier extends several WALKWAYS across to the ship. Ras Thavas and the crew quickly scramble across to safety.
Kantos escorts Dejah to the walkways. Their airship shudders again. The smoke is getting thicker. Kantos loses sight of Dejah in the smoke. The flier lurches and the remaining passengers all hurry across the gangplanks. Kantos is swept along in the human stampede. Smoke is everywhere…
Kantos assumes Dejah made it across with them. Even she is not foolish enough to stay aboard.
But, of course, the Princess was foolish enough to stay onboard. Dejah uses the thick smoke to cover her escape as she slips away from Kantos and her Personal Guard. She quickly finds a hiding spot and watches as the last of the crew boards the rescuing Airship.
The sailors withdraw the walkways and sail away just as the Tharks’ grappling hooks catch hold and the doomed ship is dragged downward.
Dejah crouches down in her hiding spot and waits, wondering what she has gotten herself into...
In the desert below, Lorquas Ptomel bellows orders, letting the other two ships escape. Tharks are not greedy. One ship is enough. (Plus it is never wise to piss off the Red Men.)
Tars Tarkas watches the two wounded air ships limp away in the direction of Helium. He knows that by the time any help returns, the desert nomads will be long gone. But first...
First, it’s time for some good old fashioned looting and pillaging. The Tharks roar in anticipation.
Carter declines to join Tars Tarkas in the looting. He isn't interested. The green man shakes his head. He'll never understand the strange white man.
The Tharks quickly board the captive airship. They must hurry. The red men’s flier is already on fire, it is only a matter of time before it is entirely engulfed in flames. The Tharks relieve the captive craft of its valuables, cargo and A LONE PRISONER before setting the airship adrift.
Tars & his raiders proudly display their most precious trophy to Lorquas. A copper-skinned, raven-haired, impossibly gorgeous girl. The Woman of Carter’s Dreams (literally).
Carter is suddenly interested.
Intro THE PRINCESS OF MARS.
LATER, after the Thark Camp has settled down from all the excitement of their successful ambush, Carter “casually” asks Sola about the female prisoner.
Sola is not fooled. She warns Carter to keep his distance from Dejah Thoris. The Tharks plan on ransoming the Princess of Helium back to her people. Until then she has been placed under the watch of Tars Tarkas. She is now his responsibility. It will be Tars’ head if Dejah is lost, killed or if a certain someone decides to rescue her. Sola doesn't want to see Carter get into any trouble.
Carter decides to bide his time. He doesn't want to get Sola or Tars into any trouble either.
Unfortunately, now that Dejah Thoris dwells in the House of Tarkas, she is also in the proximity of Sarkoja. Upon seeing Carter’s interest in the red prisoner, Sarkoja takes it upon herself to serve as Dejah’s main guard. She gives the Princess the evil eye. Dejah glares back.
(Note: The movie version of “Dejah Thoris” is no shrinking violet. Her role has been beefed up from the original novel to appeal to modern women. She is an action hero in her own right. )
Dejah knows that Sarkoja dares not harm her and forfeit of the ransom that the Tharks hope to get. She threatens to bruise herself and blame the injuries on Sarkoja.
Sarkoja backs down, slightly but she still takes delight in tormenting Dejah with minor indignities. Sola finally has had enough. Sola confronts Sarkoja. They argue about Dejah’s treatment.
Carter overhears the argument. He decides he can trust Sola. He steps into the room and defuses the confrontation. Carter wears Dotar’s name so his word with Sarkoja is still law.
Sarkoja leaves but she will keep an eye on Sola... As well as on the hated Kar-Tar.
SOMETIME LATER, Carter is out playing fetch with Woola in the ruins when he spots Dejah being led away under full THARK GUARD. He guesses they are headed to the Thark Council.
Carter follows the procession to the COUNCIL BUILDING. He follows the Tharks INSIDE. He wasn’t invited to the Council Meeting, so he must keep hidden. By the time he finds a vantage spot where he can watch the proceedings in secret, the Tharks have already begun to question Dejah.
Lorquas Ptomel is the main questioner. “What were your airships doing? Spying on us?”
Dejah explains to the Thark Council that the ships were on a scientific mission. “We were taking atmospheric readings. The air is thinning. We must be forever vigilant of our fragile environment. The Atmosphere Factories will not last forever. It’s only a matter of time before they begin to fail.“
The Thark Elders don’t believe her. They don’t trust the Red Men. Or their Science either.
Dejah surprises everyone by admitting that she is indeed lying. She came to the Tharks for another reason. She could have escaped with the others but she stayed (to parley). She stayed so she could offer a truce, a partnership between proud Helium and the mighty Tharks…
The Thark chieftains ponder her offer. They know that the Warhoons have recently made peace with Zodanga. Perhaps it is time for the Tharks to have an ally as powerful as Helium--
SOJAT can sense which way the Council leaders’ mind are turning, so before Ptomel or Tars can respond, he leaps up and strikes Dejah. The princess is knocked to the tiled floor.
“Are we Warhoons licking the boots of the Zodangans? I say no! We are Thark!”
Carter leaps from hiding and strikes Sojat down. He stands between the Tharks and Dejah.
The Council is in an uproar. Carter’s trespass is an offense punishable by death. Sojat demands the punishment be forgotten so he can accept Carter’s challenge. The Council allows it.
Carter squares off against the Thark. KAR-TAR VS. SOJAT. It is much tougher fight than Dotar’s. It takes more than a single blow this time. Carter defeats Sojat - and avenges the insult to Dejah.
Carter has killed his second Thark chieftain but this time there is no applause. Before the other Tharks can react negatively, Tars Tarkas steps forward and announces that Carter is a full fledged Thark Chieftain. As a chieftain, “Jon Kar-Tar” has political power on the Council. Power that Carter quickly uses. He claims Dejah as his own charge and warns the Tharks not to mistreat her again.
Carter brazenly exits the hearing with the Princess. The Council allows him to leave unharmed.
Carter & Dejah return to his apartments. He informs his HOUSEHOLD that Dejah is now under his protection. Sola is happy to see the princess safely away from Sarkoja. Carter realizes that they will need larger quarters, especially with Sojat’s properties on the way.
Sola takes Carter out househunting for new quarters. Dejah accompanies them, giving Carter & the Princess another opportunity to talk.
Dejah inquires into Carter's origin. Carter gives her his backstory. He is from another world...
Surprisingly, she is familiar with the earth. She explains that Ras Thavas has instruments that can transmit images from the far away planets. She had seen many earthly images during her life. (Just as Carter has seen images of Barsoom and Dejah in his dreams.)
Sola interrupts their dialogue. The she-thark has found a suitable suite of rooms for them. Carter & Dejah hurry over and join Sola outside a well-preserved BUILDING. Our hero draws his sword, in case they disturb a dangerous tenant, and leads the women inside. He uses a “glow-ball” (Orovar flashlight) to light up the interior. The coast is clear.
Carter sheathes his sword and they explore the building. His light reveals the chamber walls are decorated with paintings featuring a White Race. Dejah explains they are OROVARS. Who, at the height of their scientifically advanced civilization, left on a final pilgrimage down the River Iss.
Dejah expands upon Sola’s earlier exposition on the RELIGION OF ISSUS.
Martians of all walks of life voluntarily make the pilgrimage down the River of Mystery, the River Iss, to the hereafter. No one has ever returned. One man did and he was torn apart as a heretic.
It is their belief they are going to heaven, to be re-born through the good graces of Issus. It is in the Valley Dor where the supplicant receives the blessing of Issus and obtains immortality, in a heaven filled with peace & goodwill. (In reality only a horrible death awaits them.)
This desirable vision of the afterlife is vigorously perpetuated by THE HOLY THERNS. Dejah explains that the Therns are the descendants of the Orovars but they turned from the way of Science to the path of Religion. They are now the High Priests of the Goddess Issus. The Therns conduct their religious cult from various temples located across Barsoom.
A representative of The Holy Therns serves on her grandfather’s council. ZUL UDAY, the Thern Ambassador, is among Tardos Mors’ most trusted advisors. (Of course, Zul is also a spy for the nefarious MATAI SHANG, our unseen puppetmaster and the major villain in the sequel.)
Carter does not judge the Martians' Religion. Who is he to insult their strange ways?
In fact, he tells Dejah some of earth’s stranger beliefs. Better keep it safe: Carter does a riff on Civil War-era Saint Nick... The princess’ laughter warms the war veteran’s scarred heart.
Carter has to return to business. He agrees with Sola that these rooms are indeed suitable accommodations for the mighty Dotar Sojat. Sola sends word back to their old apartments to bring Dotar’s women and entourage, along with Sojat’s new properties and servants, to the new place.
BACK IN HELIUM, TARDOS MORS is furious with RAS THAVAS and KANTOS KAN. He blames them for the loss of his daughter. (ZUL UDAY is smirking in the bkg.)
Kantos reminds Tardos that their number one priority is to find the Princess. The Tharks could have taken her anywhere by this time.
Ras assures Tardos that he needn’t worry, the princess is no doubt under the protection of the Hero of Prophecy. Once the scientist repairs his tracking device they will be able to track down the Hero. “Find the hero, find the princess.”
Tardos cannot wait that long. He immediately orders the Navy of Helium to send out every available man and flier. They are not to rest until they find his beloved Dejah Thoris.
“But sire,” Kantos does not agree with his jeddak. “That will leave us vulnerable to Zodanga.”
“Even Zodanga would not attack in Helium’s time of tragedy.” argues Zul Uday.
“Of course not,” agrees Tardos Mors. “Not even the Zodangans.”
The priest smiles, knowing that his fellow Therns are in secret league with Zodanga’s rulers.
LATER THAT NIGHT, back in his new apartments, Carter goes to check on Dejah in her room and to continue his awkward wooing of the princess.
Carter is a man of action, not of words. He stumbles throughout the conversation. Dejah listens to the hero's clumsy smalltalk without anger. During the conversation she calls him "my chieftain."
Not realizing the significance of those words he innocently replies "my princess." He doesn't know that he is breaking all the ritual wordplay of Martian courtship. Dejah appears startled; however, she laughs it off, calling Carter a child. When asked to explain she refuses, except to say that when he learns the significance of his words, to remember that she smiled.
As they walk in the double moonlight, Carter touches Dejah’s hand and realizes that he loves her. He has loved her since the moment he first saw her.
Carter vows to rescue the Princess and return her safely home to Helium.
From hiding, Sarkoja overhears Carter & Dejah. The she-thark hurries off to report Carter’s escape plan to Ptomel and the Council. (This is her chance to gain status among the Tharks.)
Sarkoja boldly enters the Council Room. The Thark Chieftains are uncomfortable with a woman in their midst but they grudgingly agree to listen to her report. Sola tells them Carter plans to steal the princess from Lorquas and escape so he can keep her as his own.
Lorquas is upset at the news. He orders his Guards to fetch Carter to address Sarkoja’s accusations. The Guards hurry off to find Carter. Tars Tarkas remains quiet and watches.
Lorquas’ Guards find Carter in his apartments playing with Thark children. Dejah, Sola and the Other Thark Women are laughing at his antics. Woola is rolling on ground like a pet dog, knocking over anything not nailed down. The Guards interrupt the domestic bliss.
The Guards surround Carter and relieve him of his weapons before they dare take Dejah into custody. Sola hustles the children away as the Guards leave with their human prisoners.
Inside their chamber, The Thark Council grows impatient. Their grumbling is cut off as Carter & Dejah arrive under armed guard. Sarkoja keeps in the background.
Lorquas Ptomel is not happy. Nor is Tars Tarkas. The Thark Council warns Carter not to run off with Dejah. Ptomel promises that no harm will come to her. She is too valuable a prize.
“But if you can pay the same ransom, I’ll sell her to you.” Even Carter laughs at the comment.
Lorquas orders that Dejah be returned to Tars Tarkas. The jed knows that Carter will not steal his friend’s property. Since it would mean Tars’ execution. Also, Sarkoja will keep watch over the prisoner from now on. The she-thark tries to hide her evil smile at the renewed acquaintanceship.
“In the morning we leave for Thark City. We will take the princess to Tal Hajus. Let our jeddak negotiate the ransom with Helium.” Lorquas dislikes politics. He is a warrior not a politician.
In the morning, the horns sound, awaking Carter. He has to join the Thark warriors. Sola will see to packing up his property and household, while he hurries to the STABLES. His servants have saddled his favorite THOAT. Woola is waiting for him as well.
Carter catches Sarkoja smirking at him. He doesn’t trust her. Sarkoja goes back to talking to a Thark saddling his thoat. It is ZAD. Brother to Dotar. They sneak glimpses at Carter when they think he isn’t looking. Carter knows that the two are up to no good but he decides to ignore them.
Carter mounts up and rides out, Woola trotting at the thoat’s side. He rides up to join Tars Tarkas at the head of the Thark riders. He gives his friend a big grin...
Our hero’s smile changes when he spots Dejah Thoris under guard AND IN CHAINS.
The outraged Carter complains to Tars, who refuses to remove the princess’ chains. Tars has more important duties to see to. He is running the caravan. Tars rides off shouting orders.
Carter bites his tongue and lends a hand in preparations for their desert trek. The caravan comes together in the Tharks’ organized way. The entire tribe is packed up and ready to go in minutes. Carter is impressed with the tribe’s efficiency at striking camp.
Tars leads the Thark caravan out of the ruins of Korad and back into the Martian wilderness. Behind them, there is little sign that the camp had ever been there.
Once the monotony of the ride begins to settle in, Carter takes the opportunity to speak candidly with Tars Tarkas. He speaks of his love for the red prisoner.
Tars Tarkas laughs. Tharks do not believe in such things as love. She is only money to them.
Carter drops the subject but he notices that Tars does order the removal of the heavy chains from the Princess. (The Thark’s icy veneer continues to crack.)
The Thark Caravan continues across the dead seabeds of Barsoom. Tars calls for a rest stop. The caravan clatters to a stop. The riders stretch their six limbs, the thoats feed on ochre moss.
Carter walks over to Dejah. He wants to talk. She refuses to speak to him directly (Apparently she did take offense to his clumsy romancing.) but communicates through Sola.
Dejah is mad at him. Carter is befuddled. Sola shakes her head at the foolish man.
Sarkoja’s bully boy, Zad, decides that the time is right to pick a fight with Carter. He walks over and strikes Carter’s thoat on the snout. Twice to make sure he gets Carter’s attention.
Carter has to stop Woola from attacking Zad. He readily accepts the Thark’s challenge. The fight will take his mind off Dejah. Zad draws steel first and lunges at the puny human.
CARTER VS. ZAD! It is a duel to the death! The swordfight attracts an audience. The Tharks gather around the combatants. Sola and Sarkoja cheer their respective hero on.
Carter is getting the upper hand on Zad when he is suddenly blinded by a reflection of light from Sarkoja’s MIRROR. Zad’s blade slips past Carter’s guard and wounds him. He blindly slashes back and kills Zad. The look of triumph disappears from Sarkoja’s face.
The badly wounded Carter sees Dejah knock the mirror out of Sarkoja’s grip then Sarkoja stabbing at Dejah as Sola jumps in front of the knife just as he slips into unconsciousness---
LATER, Carter awakes back in his Thark tent. It is night outside. He has a nasty wound from Zad’s sword, but his Thark women have treated his injuries with their race’s miraculous healing salves. He sees that Sola lays in the cot next to him. She had been wounded saving Dejah from Sarkoja. Both his and her wounds are not fatal.
As Carter & Sola lay in recovery, they talk. Carter tells Sola of his life in Virginia and she confesses her deepest secret to him. Sola Knows Who Her Parents Are.
The Tharks do not have a family unit. They have no wives. Mating is coordinated by community chieftains. Resulting in a society without love, without family bonds, though bravery and loyalty are honored. Love is forbidden. It weakens a warrior’s heart.
Sola tells FLASHBACK STORY of her Mother… GOZAVA falls in love with Thark warrior. But love is forbidden for all Tharks. Her rival SARKOJA betrays Gozava to evil TAL HAJUS. Tal Hajus tortures Gozava. She dies without betraying her lover’s name. But Sola knows his name.
She tells Carter that TARS TARKAS IS HER FATHER.
In the morning, Carter & Sola, recovered from their wounds, join the Tharks as their journey resumes. Sarkoja glares at both of them. The trip to Thark is uneventful, taking several weeks.
Dejah continues to ignore Carter the entire time. Sola grows tired of passing notes between the two. Carter doesn’t understand why Sola is now mad at him. He looks to Woola. “Women.”
Eventually Thark Scouts spot RUINS on the horizon. It is THARK CITY! The weary caravan picks up speed at the sight of their destination.
The Thark Caravan enters the ruins of another ancient city. Welcome to THARK CITY. It is much more crowded than Korad. The Thark presence is of a more permanent nature here.
The Tharks suddenly notice there is Another Tribe of Green Men on their home turf. The Tharks react in disgust as they ride pass the Unwanted Visitors.
Intro THE WARHOONS. These green barbarians are even more barbaric than the Tharks. They wear necklaces of trophy tusks. They decorate their bodies with scars. Nasty ugly critters.
The Warhoons have already made themselves at home, making camp for the night. The green brutes are sitting around their campfires, gnawing on bones and fighting for dinner scraps.
“Stinking Warhoons,” Old Ptomel spits out the name. The two tribes are blood enemies.
Tars stops A CITY THARK and asks him what the Warhoons are doing in Thark City. “Tal Hajus has given the Warhoons amnesty if they swear allegiance to him.”
Tars Tarkas leads the Thark Caravan upwind from the Warhoon camp. He finds an open area in the ruins and orders the tribe to make camp for the night. They will present themselves to Tal Hajus in the morning.
Carter knows that if he is going to escape, he better do it now or never.
Carter spots Dejah helping set up the Thark camp. He hurries over to Dejah, keeping an wary eye out for Sarkoja. He drops to one knee before the Princess of Mars. The Virginian does not know what he has said to insult her, but his sword is hers, to do with as she sees fit.
Dejah recognizes his warrior's heart. She accepts Carter's apology.
Carter tells her that they must escape tonight before Tars hands Dejah over to Tal. He had to wait until the caravan crossed the city limits and Tars’ responsibility was ceded to that of the city’s jeddak. Tars will no longer be punished if Carter & Dejah escape.
Dejah wants Sola to join them and escape to a happier life. Carter agrees but doubts if the she-thark will join them. Their plans are dashed when they are suddenly seized by CITY GUARDS.
The guards have orders to bring the princess back to Tal Hajus. The jeddak doesn’t care about Carter so the guards let him go as they haul Dejah away...
Carter runs back to camp and finds Tars Tarkas. He expresses his concern for Dejah. Tars agrees to take Carter to the Jeddak’s Palace and make sure that the princess is unharmed. He can not do anything more than that for the earthman.
Tars takes Carter to the JEDDAK’S PALACE. Tars stops in his tracks at what he sees. First the Warhoons and now this... ZODANGAN AIRSHIPS are moored outside the ancient building.
Tars Tarkas has seen enough. He tells Carter to forget Dejah. She is in the hands of Zodanga now. Tars storms off to break camp and leave until Tal Hajus regains his senses.
Carter has no choice but to stay behind. He still has to rescue the Princess.
Carter must get inside the Jeddak's Palace. The building is well guarded but he is John Carter. He leaps up to a second floor window and slips inside without anyone the wiser.
Once inside, he sneaks past a few Thark Guards and locates the THRONE ROOM. Carter finds himself a hiding spot with a clear view of the throne.
TAL HAJUS sits on the ancient throne. This green man is no Tars Tarkas. He is big, fat & ugly. Dejah is held captive before the hideous Thark. Carter spies down on them from hiding.
Tal Hajus sends his Guards away. “I want to be alone with the prisoner.”
Tal Hajus leers down at Dejah. The princess reminds him that she is much more valuable unharmed. The Thark laughs at her naiveté. Tal Hajus doesn't care about Helium's ransom, he intends on defiling Dejah and sending her back to Tardos Mors in pieces.
Carter has heard enough. Our hero leaps out from hiding and bounds across the throne room. Tal Hajus was unwise to order his guards from the room. The monster grapples with Carter.
CARTER VS. TAL HAJUS! It is a short fight. And quiet. Carter strikes the Thark jeddak down but does not kill the villain. (Carter leaves Tal alive for Tars Tarkas’ revenge.)
Carter frees Dejah from her chains. He takes her hand and leaves the Throne Room. They silently slip pass the bored Guards, making their way through the empty corridors out to the courtyard.
OUTSIDE, Carter & Dejah sneak towards the ZODANGAN AIRSHIPS moored in the courtyard. He means to steal one and fly out of town. Only he doesn’t know how to fly them. Carter asks Dejah if she knows how to fly. She gives him a look. (Of course, she can. She is not helpless.)
Carter & Dejah get ready to make their break for the fliers...
They are suddenly surrounded by ZODANGAN GUARDS. Their leader steps out of the shadows.
Intro THAN KOSIS, jeddak of Zodanga, and the movie’s lead villain. He is accompanied by his equally villainous son, SAB THAN. They wear the same Royal Crest that emblazons the Airships moored in the courtyard. Kosis’ men have been waiting for Carter & Dejah.
Carter sees that the Zodangans are similar in appearance to the Red Men on the ambushed Airships. However these Red Men have a slightly different ethnic look to them. (“Italian” vs. Helium’s “English” features.) Their harness and gear also have a slightly different look.
Than Kosis takes center stage. The Zod Royal is behind Tal Hajus’ sudden ambition. If the Tharks join them, Zodanga will give them the forbidden Orovar technology that Helium refuses to.
Kosis is happy to see the princess. His spies in Helium tell him that two scout ships recently returned with the news of Dejah's kidnapping. Tardos Mors foolishly sent the entire Navy of Helium out to find and rescue his granddaughter. His mistake leaves Helium vulnerable to attack from Zodanga. A mistake they will capitalize upon. ZODANGA HAS DECLARED WAR ON HELIUM!
Now that Kosis holds Tardos’ granddaughter hostage, Zodanga can force its will upon Helium.
TAL HAJUS arrives at the scene. He glares at Carter but must contain himself in the presence of Than Kosis. The Thark jeddak is backed up by WARHOONS, not Tharks. Their leader is an ugly brute called DAK KOVA. He is decorated by real scars, not ornamental. Scars from battle.
Than Kosis takes Dejah from Tal Hajus but he generously leaves Sola for the jeddak’s filthy pleasure. They can do whatever they want to Carter.
Then Kosis and his entourage walk across the ancient courtyard to where the Zod Fliers wait and climb into their Airships, lifting off without so much as a backwards glance.
Sab Than decides to stay behind so he can participate in Carter & Sola’s torture. The Warhoons hoot and howl in anticipation. Tal Hajus tells them to quiet down. He doesn’t want their fun to alert his fellow Tharks. The rapists are interrupted with news. “Tars Tarkas has left the city.”
Tal Hajus didn’t give Tars Tarkas permission to leave. The damn Thark will upset his plans. The Thark jeddak must crush any insurrection. Tal wants Tars’ head on a stick. Dak Kova and his Warhoons hurry off to the stables and their thoats. They will find the rebel Thark for Tal Hajus.
Sab Than is disappointed. Any torture or rape will have to be postponed until later. He decides to bring Sola with him. “I don’t have a she-thark in my harem.” His Personal Guards struggle to load the chained Sola onboard the airship and they take their eyes off Carter for only a moment.
Carter breaks free of his bonds. They don’t know about his superhuman strength or abilities.
Once free, Carter leaps upon the Zod Guards. Even though he is barehanded, the Zod Guards attack him with drawn swords. So much for Martian chivalry.
Without his Warhoon bodyguards, Tal Hajus quickly flees to the safety of his palace.
Sab Than is horrified at the sudden turn of events. He looks around for help but the other Fliers are already disappearing into the distance. Sab Than quickly clambers aboard his flier and orders his pilot to lift off. He leaves the guards on the ground to the mercy of Carter...
Carter breaks free of the guards and makes a diving leap onto SAB THAN’S FLIER just as the airship leaves takes off.
Carter & Sab Than struggle for control of the Zod Airship. Sola holds on for dear life as Sab’s remaining guards are tossed overboard by the flier’s aerial gymnastics. We get a crashcourse in MARTIAN FLIERS establishing Fliers and giving Carter some flight time.
Carter finally gets the Flier under control. Sab Than holds a gun on Sola. (Using a radium pistol is considered bad manners in Martian etiquette.) “One false move and I’ll kill her!”
In the meantime, the crippled airship skims lower and lower over the desert wastelands.
Carter can see there is the action going on down below... a small band of Tharks has been caught by a larger force of Warhoons. Carter recognizes Tars Tarkas. The Thark is surrounded. Tars’ Tharks will be overwhelmed by the Warhoons’ superior numbers.
Sab Than realizes that his small Flier is carrying too much weight. It is dropping dangerously close to the battlescene below. He must jettison some weight. So he throws Sola overboard.
Carter, being the hero of the story, has no choice but to dive out after her.
Carter jumps, literally, into the Thark/Warhoon fray. With his new physical abilities he easily survives the drop. Carter lands on the ground, rolling to break his fall and comes up with his sword drawn and ready. (Oh, and Sola also lands unharmed. Warhoons break her fall.)
Carter locates Tars Tarkas in the green melee and cuts a swathe to his side. Tars is too busy w/ the Warhoons to greet his arrival. No time for hellos, the old friends fight back-to-back...
THARK FIGHTS WARHOON! No quarter is given, none is asked. Sola hacks away with the best of them. The battlefield grows red. Carter's arrival turns the tide of battle. DAK KOVA orders his BUGLER to sound the retreat. The Warhoons fall back in defeat. They head for Zodanga.
The Tharks are victorious! They are happy to see Kar-Tar. A couple of ‘em hit on Sola in the background as Tars greets Carter. The remaining Thark warriors hurry off to loot the fallen Warhoons while Tars stays behind to bind Sola’s wounds and to talk with Carter.
Tars admits to Carter that he was mistaken. There is such a thing as friendship. The Thark chieftain offers to let Carter escape so he doesn’t have to face the wrath of Tal Hajus.
Carter turns his friend’s offer down. He wants to return and face Tal Hajus. He will accept any punishment the Council deems fit but as a Thark Chieftain, he insists on getting his Day in Court first. Carter leaps onto the back of a vacant thoat and re-joins his Tharks brothers.
Carter has a mission in Zodanga. A mission to rescue the Princess of Mars from Than Kosis’ (and Sab Than’s) evil clutches. A mission he intends to fulfill or his name is not John Carter.
LATER, Carter & Tars continue riding towards Thark City. The Tharks are weary from battle but delirious with Warhoon loot. They boast to SOLA about their exploits.
Carter maneuvers his thoat next to Tars Tarkas’. He wants to speak to Tars privately. Carter tells Tars the story that Sola told him. A story of GOZAVA. Gozava loved Tars. She had his child. Tal Hajus wanted Gozava. He killed her. Sola is Tars' daughter. Oh, and nasty Sarkoja was involved.
Tars doesn't say a word, though he rides over and checks on Sola’s bandaged wounds. Carter wonders what Tars will do the next time he sees Tal Hajus... And Sarkoja.
Meanwhile, in the ROYAL PALACE of ZODANGA, THAN KOSIS and SAB THAN, the father and son rulers of Zodanga, confer in the THRONE ROOM. They are obviously up to no good. The schemers are interrupted by a disturbance at the front door. They can hear a VOICE...
It is DEJAH THORIS and she is angry. After all, they are planning to slaughter her people.
Dejah barges into the chamber and confronts Than Kosis & Sab Than. She knows her nation will go to war for her honor. She cannot allow her people to make such a sacrifice. Dejah agrees to wed Sab Than if Zodanga calls off the war. Sab Than readily accepts.
Dejah leaves the throne room. We remain behind to listen to the schemers' true reaction.
Sab Than may have agreed to Dejah's demands, but Than Kosis has colder blood. The jeddak cares not for the bargain. He has plans for Helium. He won't allow his son's lust to interfere.
Back in the desert, Carter & Tharks reach the outskirts of THARK CITY. Tars Tarkas leads the riders as they thunder down the streets of the inhabited ruins.
THARK WOMEN & CHILDREN run out of their homes to greet the returning victors. They stop cheering when they see the infamous “Jon Kar-Tar” among the warriors. They know Tal Hajus has put a death warrant on the white man's head.
Tars Tarkas boldly escorts Carter through the suddenly quiet crowd. Carter knows that no harm will come to him as long as he is under the mighty Thark's protection.
Tars, Carter & Sola ride to the THARK CAMP. They dismount at the camp’s corral and servants see to their tired thoats. There is excitement in the air at Carter’s return. Sola’s, too.
Lorquas Ptomel and the other desert Tharks remained behind when Tars and his men dared to defy Tal Hajus and left the city. But with his victory against the hated Warhoons, even Tal Hajus can not punish the returning hero. But Carter is something different. He is not a Thark.
WOOLA runs out of the entrance and knocks Carter down in greeting. TAR’S WOMEN & CHILDREN welcome Tars home. They’re surprised but happy to see Carter. Sola, too.
Other Tharks are not so happy to see Carter return. SARKOJA glares at him but before she can cause any more mischief Tars pulls the villainess aside.
Tars confronts Sarkoja with knowledge regarding her role in the death of Gozava. He implies that it is time for her to begin the pilgrimage down the River Iss.
Tars leaves Sarkoja where she stands alone and rejoins Carter’s happy homecoming. (He is a favorite of the Thark children.) The next morning, Tars’ household wakes to discover Sarkoja gone and never seen again. (Unless, of course, she is needed in the sequels.)
THE THARK COUNCIL is convened at dawn. The Tharks rumble in anger when they see that TAL HAJUS is accompanied by his WARHOON BODYGUARDS inside the Thark Council. Warhoons are not welcome in the chamber.
Tal Hajus shouts down the vocal opposition. He is jeddak. His word is law. LORQUAS PTOMEL grumbles but desists. Tal Hajus then announces his plan to unite Thark & Warhoons under his banner and then, with Zodanga’s help, they will sack glorious Helium of its golden riches.
It might sound good, but the Tharks are blood enemies of Warhoon and will never make peace with them. The debate turns nasty. The Warhoons begin to look nervous.
The argument falls to a hush as TARS TARKAS leads CARTER into the Council Room.
Tal Hajus leaps up from his throne and orders the earthman’s immediate execution. He demands revenge on the only man to ever strike him and live. A Warhoon takes a step towards Carter only to stop when he notices that the desert Tharks do not obey their jeddak.
Lorquas and the others have grown to known Carter as a mighty warrior and a true Thark. The same can not be said of their fat jeddak.
Tars adds fuel to the fire. “As a chieftain, Dotar should be allowed to speak in his own defense.”
Carter takes the floor and insults Tal Hajus. "Tal Hajus is old and he is fat. Tal Hajus is not worthy to be Jeddak of the mighty Tharks. The mighty Tars Tarkas should be made jeddak!"
The Warhoons, seeing the direction events are turning, decides to leave while they still can...
Tal Hajus knows he must accept the challenge or lose face in front of the Council. It is the Law of the Jungle. He reluctantly accepts. He steps from his throne to confront Tars Tarkas. The Tharks Battle. TARS TARKAS VS. TAL HAJUS. The soft jeddak is no match for the desert Thark.
“Govaza.” Tars whispers his lover’s name to Tal Hajus just before he breaks the Thark’s neck.
Carter immediately urges the Thark Council to declare Tars Tarkas "Jeddak of the Tharks". The vote is unanimous. The Council roars its approval. Tars accepts the title and responsibility.
Tars' first official action is to agree to help his fellow Thark Kar-Tar in his crusade to over-throw mighty Zodanga and rescue Dejah Thoris. Carter tries to thank his friend but Tars refuses to hear it. “That is what friends do.” Besides, Tharks are always looking for a good fight.
BACK IN ZODANGA, SAB THAN decides to pay his guest a little midnight visit. He walks down the hallway of the royal palace. The GUARD outside Dejah’s Door is asleep at the post, the dinner tray is spilled on the floor next to the snoring guard. “Fool! She was supposed to eat it, not you.”
Sab forgets about the guard and steps over to Dejah’s Door. He unlocks the door and slips inside the dark bedroom as quietly as possible. The look on Sab’s face tells us all we need to know.
Sab tip-toes over to Dejah’s bed. Dejah Thoris appears to be fast asleep. The villain begins to reach for her then stops. He looks down and sees a knife poised at his crotch. Dejah doesn’t move or even open her eyes but she is obviously not asleep and not playing games.
Sab Than swallows and slowly backs away from both blade and bed. He turns and leaves without a word. The horny villain will just have to wait until after they are married...
Dejah still doesn’t move or open her eyes, but a slight smile curves her lips in satisfaction. Our heroine gets another chance to prove she ain’t your ordinary damsel in distress.
THE THARKS ride their thoats across the MARTIAN WASTELANDS towards Zodanga. The Thark hordes travel by night (and by MONTAGE) trying to avoid discovery by Zodangan scouts. It will take several days for Tars Tarkas to raise his forces to full strength and reach the city.
Carter & Tars are busy throughout the montage. Making and striking camps, greeting new recruits, keeping the troops in line. Carter & Tars swear new blood oaths to unite the tribes.
LATER, The Tharks are camped for the night. To keep any Zodangan spies guessing at their true numbers, no campfires are allowed. The Thark horde numbers more than it did the day before.
Carter & Tars are inside their COMMAND TENT. They have a map spread across a makeshift table. They lay out the situation for the audience and themselves. Zodanga has both the Warhoons and their famous Air Squadrons. Carter & Tars go outside to survey their own forces.
“Even with full strength of Thark behind us they are a formidable enemy,” rumbles a frustrated Tars Tarkas to Carter. “We will still need air support against the Zodangan Navy.”
“Will we do?” asks a voice from above.
Carter & Tars look up to find KANTOS KAN leaning over the bow of a HELIUM FLIER floating a twenty feet above them. RAS THAVAS stands at his side, apparently his tracking device is fixed.
On cue, the entire NAVY OF HELIUM drops down out of the night sky above the Thark encampment. The surprised Tharks snatch up their weapons and gird themselves for battle. They know that Helium has no love for Thark. The situation threatens to explode into violence unless…
Carter takes control of the situation. He calms down his Thark warriors and asks Kantos to explain himself. Kantos re- assures the Tharks that the fliers are no threat.
“Helium has come to join the mighty Tharks in their battle against Zodanga.”
LATER, Kantos & his Helium Officers have joined Tars & his Thark Jeds in Carter’s tent to plan for mutual battle. The Warhoons will not stop the Tharks and the Navy of Helium is the equal to Zodanga’s Air Squadrons. Victory is assured.
Carter knows from his Civil War experience there is no such thing as “assured”.
Carter’s Allies are all in agreement. In the morning their combined forces will attack. The officers leave the command tent, some to confer with their men, others to sleep and the Tharks to eat.
Ras Thavas stays behind to talk with Carter. The earthman’s sixth sense tingles whenever he’s around Ras so Carter knows better than to entirely trust the Mastermind but, at the moment, they both want the same thing. The Defeat of Zodanga. To Ras, it is the First Step in his Master Plan to break the Power of the Therns. To Carter, it is removing an obstacle to Dejah.
Ras explains that he is a scientist, so he is naturally curious about Carter. “How did you came to Barsoom?” Carter mentions the portal device. Ras asks if Carter brought anything from his homeworld as proof of his assertions? Just his pants. Oh, and the sword Carter picked up but somehow lost it on the way through. Ras looks satisfied with the answer.
The old man (at least the oldest man Carter has seen yet on Barsoom) excuses himself and leaves the Command Tent. The conversation leaves more questions than it answers, but leaves no doubt that the plot has just thickened (as well as setting up the SEQUELS.)
BACK IN ZODANGA, Than Kosis & Sab Than are busy with their War Against Helium.
There are rumors that the Hero of the Prophecy is leading the Thark hordes. Kosis’ network of spies confirm that now Helium has joined with the green men. The royals’ plans are falling apart. The villains blame John Carter. “Remove the offworlder and things will go back to normal.”
Than Kosis has a plan. He has already devised a Doomsday Weapon in case Zodanga is ever conquered or he is overthrown by its citizens. He will blow up Zodanga’s Atmosphere Plant and make sure that the blame falls squarely on the heroic shoulders of Carter. Kosis is willing to sacrifice Zodanga and all its inhabitants to stop the offworlder.
“But won’t the explosion kill us as well, father?”
“You needn’t worry, Sab Than. We will no doubt be dead by then, killed by Carter or Thark.”
In the morning, the Thark horde reaches the outskirts of ZODANGA. Another exotic Martian skyline of onion domes and minarets. The air is filled with AIRSHIPS, both Helium & Zodangan, but no conflict yet. The fliers are different shapes and sizes but all display the given colors of their nation.
Carter rides at the side of Tars Tarkas. The Tharks march confidently towards the walled city, trusting to Helium’s fliers to care of the Zod airships while they handle the ground forces.
The gates of Zodanga’s are thrown wide open and out ride DAK KOVA & WARHOON ARMY. The painted savages are dressed in their battle finery. Their thoats look equally fierce. They pound lances against shields and howl their bloodcurdling battle-cry, trying to frighten the Tharks.
The Tharks are far from intimidated. Tars raises his battle-lance and signals “attack”.
The Tharks ride their battle-thoats against the charging Warhoons. We stampede into ANOTHER BIG ACTION SEQUENCE. THARK VS WARHOON. TARS TARKAS takes care of DAK KOVA!
Carter confronts a Warhoon or Two until a rampaging BERSERKER knocks him off his thoat. He is momentarily dazed as the slavering monstrosity bears down upon him.
Carter faces certain death...
Until Kantos Kan swoops down in his FLIER and Carter leaps aboard and out of the grasp of the Warhoon berserker.
Kantos banks his Flier up above the battlefield giving Carter a new view of things.
Carter can see that Tars’ forces are being overwhelmed by the sheer number of Warhoons. There is only one chance. Carter tells Kantos they must find and stop Than Kosis. Without their leader, perhaps Zodanga will quit.
Kantos agrees and turns his Flier towards the Palace Citadel of Zodanga. They are joined by a small squadron of HELIUM FLIERS acting as escort for their desperate mission.
Kantos’ Flier is attacked by Zodangan Fliers. Carter mans the anti-aircraft guns. We spin into another AERIAL DOGFIGHT. The Zod Fliers keep Kantos from reaching the Jeddak’s palace.
Carter’s guns jam, so he draws his blade and leaves Kantos behind. He leaps from airship to airship - the actual choreography to come later - defeating the Zodangan Airships.
Carter finishes up his aerial stunts and rejoins Kantos on the Helium officer’s flier. Kantos’ airship has been damaged in the battle and only has enough power for one last suicide dive over the walls of Zodanga... The heroes are followed in by the remains of their flying escort.
Carter & Kantos crash through the city’s perimeter and inside the castle walls. The Fliers give them cover from the heavy radium gunfire. They manage to land in the central courtyard. Carter & Kantos jump out of their battered flier and fight their way over to the CITY GATE.
Kantos uses a Radium Bomb to blast open the gate. The explosion brings the sword-to-sword fighting momentarily to a halt. The Zodangans hold their collective breath as the smoke clears, waiting breathlessly to see if the front gate has held up against the bomb...
With a roar, Tars Tarkas leads his painted Tharks out of the smoke and charge into the breached city. The howling green barbarians on their wild thoats thunder through the streets of Zodanga.
Tars greets Carter. The earthman leaps upon the back of a thoat and rejoins his savage brothers. He shares their battle cry. He rides for the Royal Palace to find Than Kosis....
Kantos Kan remains with the Helium forces. They will hold the gate against the Zod defenses while Carter finds and deals with Than Kosis.
Than Kosis and Sab Than are watching the battle’s progress from the safety of the ROYAL PALACE. They keep DEJAH THORIS close for their own protection. They do not like what they are seeing. Kosis realizes that even with their superior numbers, his forces are defeated.
Than Kosis knows that he has one last hope. If Sab Than marries Dejah, Helium will not slay their princess’ new husband (or father-in-law). The Royals rush off to force a marriage ceremony...
Carter & Tars ride their war-thoats up the Palace Steps. They quickly dismount and assault the entrance. Tars kicks open the main doors and they storm inside.
The two heroes have a choice of TWO CORRIDORS. Carter takes the left, Tars the right. Carter hears noise coming from a far room. He kicks open a second set of doors.
Inside, there is some sort of Ceremony going on. It is A WEDDING CEREMONY.
THE WEDDING OF SAB THAN AND DEJAH THORIS.
Carter interrupts the ceremony. He leaps between bride and groom. His sword severs the ritual golden chain at Dejah's throat. He pulls her to his side. "Not while I live!" and the battle is joined.
As Carter is surrounded on the throne’s steps, he shoves Dejah behind him to protect her while he defends them against the Zodangans. Dejah, of course, needs no protection. She snatches up a sword and joins Carter at keeping the Zodangan swordsmen at bay.
Than Kosis tries to backstab Dejah to spite our hero. Carter sees his intent but he is too busy defending himself against the Zod swords that he can’t reach her in time. Dejah turns and stops the assassin’s blade by herself. Carter reaches Dejah’s side a moment later.
Carter crosses swords with Kosis. They duel, back and forth. Carter draws first blood. Kosis falls in faux defeat. Carter turns and engages the next batch of Zodangans...
Once Carter’s back is turned, Kosis opens A SECRET DOORWAY and slips safely inside. Carter notices Kosis’ escape but the Zodangan jeddak shuts and locks the door before Carter can reach him. Kosis escaped into an ELEVATOR that begins to rise to the top of the Palace tower.
Carter looks around in desperation. He must pursue the lead villain - no doubt Kosis is up to more villainy - but he can’t leave Dejah, even with a sword, alone in a room full of angry Zodangans.
On cue, Tars Tarkas bursts into the Ceremony Chamber, his Thark Warriors at his heels. Their arrival solves Carter’s dilemma. The Tharks mow down any Zodangan opposition. Tars joins Carter on the throne’s steps. Carter hands Dejah over to Tars and turns to pursue Than Kosis.
The escaping villain’s elevator is still going up to the top floor. So Carter uses his leaping powers to bounce up and off the sides of the stairwell chasing after the elevator up to the palace tower’s heights. The elevator stops at the top. Carter keeps on climbing upward...
CARTER reaches the TOP OF CITADEL. THAN KOSIS is busy working the controls of MACHINE mounted to the side of the Atmosphere Factory tower. (This must be his aforementioned DOOMSDAY DEVICE.) Kosis flicks a final switch and turns to confront Carter’s arrival. Behind him a COUNTDOWN CLOCK (with Martian numerals, of course) begins to move backward.
Carter is out of breath from the climb but Kosis doesn’t give him any time to rest. Kosis attacks! CARTER VS. KOSIS. This is the Flynn/Rathbone duel of the movie so we better make it good!
During the fight, Carter accidentally wipes the red paint from the villain’s white skin. He yanks off the black wig off of Kosis’ head to reveal his bald head. THAN KOSIS IS A THERN IN DISGUISE!
Carter momentarily taken aback by the discovery. Kosis seizes the hero’s hesitation to pull out a radium pistol but Carter knocks it flying runs the villain through with his sword. The Thern Spy clasps his wound and drops to the floor, mortally wounded.
Carter needs answers from Kosis before he dies. “Tell me how to stop it!” But the fallen villain refuses to answer, instead laughing at Carter’s frustration.
“You’re too late, hero.” Than Kosis throws himself from the citadel’s height. “Long live Issus!”
Carter watches in disbelief as Kosis falls out of sight. There goes his last hope to stop the bomb.
Suddenly AN AIRSHIP lifts into view. KANTOS is at the wheel and RAS THAVAS stands at the rail. The broken body of Than Kosis lies sprawled across the hull.
Carter jumps across to the flier and checks the Thern Spy. Kosis is still alive. Carter tries to question him but only gets spit and blood back. Kosis can’t speak. He has been paralyzed by the fall. Again, Carter is thwarted.
“Perhaps I can be of some service.” Ras Thavas kneels down next to the broken Kosis. “The Science Council has spent centuries perfecting our mental abilities, to the point where we can read minds.” Enough exposition, Ras kneels down and does his Mr. Spock thing...
The look on Ras’ face tells us that he has learned about the Thern Plot. He breaks contact with Kosis. “I know how to disarm the device. There is no time to waste.” Carter picks up Ras Thavas bodily and leaps from Kantos’ Flier back over to the palace tower.
Ras Thavas hurries over and examines to the bomb, spilling what he learned inside Kosis’ mind to Carter as he defuses it...
The Therns plan on blowing up Atmosphere Factory, in case their Zodangan War failed, and blame it on the outworlder. The Therns recognize what a danger Carter as the Hero of Prophecy means to the continuation of their control of Martian Society. They will do anything to stop him.
Carter watches the timer continue to count down. Ras must hurry...
Ras disables the device with only seconds to spare. Everyone can breath a sigh of relief.
Carter & Ras Thavas confer. They must be careful. They dare not reveal the Therns were behind the Zodangans for fear of upsetting the Order of Things. The Therns are too powerful to confront just yet. Carter must bide his time until he is fully accepted as the Hero of the Prophecy.
“Then Barsoom will follow wherever you lead. Then you can strike against the Thern.”
Carter wonders why Ras Thavas is telling him these things. The Mastermind assures him that he is acting in the best interests of Barsoom. “But isn’t it time for you to get back to the princess?”
Carter hurries back to the bloodstained THRONE ROOM. He spots Dejah across the Throne Room, protected behind a green wall of Tharks. Tars Tarkas and his warriors are busy cleaning up the remnants of Zodanga’s Finest.
Carter spots Sab Than still standing, surrounded by his remaining BODYGUARDS. Carter wants Sab alive so he can question him about further Thern plots...
Sab sees Carter and turns to run, but stops dead in his tracks. In his fright he has run himself through on one of his guards’ drawn swords. Sab’s reign as jeddak doesn’t last very long.
Carter sees Dejah across the room and forgets about everything else. He leaps across the room to reach her. He declares his love to the Princess and promises they will never be parted again.
Kantos enters the chamber in front of a squad of SAILORS. He announces that Helium’s forces control the skies. It is only a matter of time before Helium secures Zodanga City.
Carter takes to the floor and recommends a truce between Zodanga and Helium. Why must they destroy each other? With the House of Kosis gone, there is no longer need or duty to fight. The warriors of Helium & Thark agree with his thinking. They have lost enough men on this day.
Carter asks who leads Zodanga now?
ZAT ARRAS steps forward. He is next in line of succession. (Zat only makes a cameo in this episode, but he is a major character in the GODS sequel.) The Zodangan officer is wounded but he still wields a sword. He takes another step forward...
No one knows if he is going to try and run Carter through or offer his sword in peace. It is the latter. Zat kneels and offers his sword to the victorious John Carter.
A ceasefire is declared on Air and Land. The War is Over!
ELSEWHERE, OTHER PARTIES have watched events play out. To some, satisfactorily. To others, most certainly not. John Carter has earned himself many enemies with his victory.
MATAI SHANG, the archvillain from “Gods of Mars” makes his sinister cameo appearance. He is a Ming the Merciless type. At his side is his slinky daughter PHAIDON. The High Thern’s schemes have been compromised by Carter’s heroic actions.
“Than Kosis has failed you, father.”
“He was but a piece on the jetan board.” The villain whispers. “The game always continues.”
Back in Zodanga City, CARTER & TARS leads the THARKS in celebration, KANTOS & DEJAH leads the forces of HELIUM. Carter must still return Dejah to her people. "On to Helium!"
The Tharks clamber onboard the remaining airships. The Helium pilots take the controls (The Tharks don’t know how to fly yet.) and lift off. The fleet of Fliers heads out across the desert.
John Carter is on the deck of the lead Flier, the incomparable Princess of Mars on his arm, his loyal friend and swordbrother Tars Tarkas at his side.
Soon, the TWIN TOWERS of HELIUM can be seen in the distance...
HELIUM welcomes CARTER & COMPANY with great pomp and ceremony. The twin cities spare no expense to show their gratitude for the safe return of their beloved princess. A PARADE is held in the heroes’ honor. The citizens of Helium welcome the Tharks into their city with open arms. It is the beginning of a new era of peace and prosperity between Helium and Thark.
Carter & Company stop at the steps of the Jeddak’s Palace. TARDOS MORS, jeddak of Helium, greets them. He welcomes his granddaughter back into his arms. The city rejoices in her return.
The jeddak is accompanied by his advisors. Tardos introduces Carter to several characters who will figure prominently in the next two sequels: ZUL UDAY, Ambassador of the Holy Therns, and the members of the SCIENCE COUNCIL. RAS THAVAS rejoins his fellow scientists.
The Priest of Issus bows his head to Carter, already plotting his sect’s vengeance on the hero. In fact it is the Thern’s poisoning of Carter that gets THE GODS OF MARS off and running.
Tardos turns from his advisors and greets Tars Tarkas standing at Carter’s side. The jeddak offers his “undying friendship to the greatest warrior on all of Barsoom…Tars Tarkas of Thark!”
To the Hero of the Prophecy, Tardos offers the hand of the Princess of Helium in marriage.
“ALL HAIL, JOHN CARTER. PRINCE OF HELIUM!”
A YEAR LATER, Carter is happily settled into his role as a Prince of Helium. He has married Dejah. (The elaborate ceremony held off-screen or in the expanded DVD version) Peace reigns in Helium. Together, Carter and Dejah have AN EGG. They await birth of their first child...
And the franchise’s first sequel...THE GODS OF MARS.
Edgar Rice Burroughs’
A PRINCESS OF MARS
MACHINATIONS ON MARS
The following pages detail the VARIOUS SUBPLOTS that are to be woven into the narrative, helping to tie the three movies together into a more cohesive trilogy than ERB’s original books.
“The Master Mind”
RAS THAVAS, the so-called “Master Mind of Mars” has long explored the cosmos with the advanced telescopic technology of the ancient Orovars. (Note: ERB mentions this technology in “Princess”, explaining Dejah Thoris’ familiarity with Carter’s home planet of “Jasoom”.)
Now the mad genius has enhanced the “window” technology to peer even deeper into Space and Time. (He has not yet developed a physical “door”, though he is working on such a device.)
Ras explores Time/Space with his window. He begins with Martian History; witnessing the Fall of the Orovars, the Rise of the Red Man, and the End of Barsoom. He confirms that the red planet is dying. The ancient Atmosphere Factories, more relics of the Orovar’s science, are struggling to keep the air replenished and will soon fail. Barsoom does not have much time left.
From his explorations, Ras knows that THE THERNS are greatly responsible for the Death of Mars. The Therns blindly follow the RELIGION OF ISSUS. Their Religion keeps the Science Council from re-discovering the forbidden knowledge of the dead Orovars. Ras knows that this knowledge could keep the Factories working and save Barsoom from extinction.
Ras concludes that the Therns must be removed from the equation.
To that end he devises an elaborate plan to overthrow the Religion of the Therns.
Ras Thavas dares not to radically change the Past, but he believes he can change the Future. The future hasn’t happened yet, so theoretically his actions will not impact the Time/Space Continuum as badly as if he dabbled in the Past.
But to change the Future, Ras must be able to do more than merely observe events through his Time/Space Window. He must be able to physically touch and alter the Future. He must be able to step through his looking glass and knock over a domino or two.
It takes Ras Thavas years (but Time is not a problem when Martians can live a thousand years or more) to design and build his TIME/SPACE PORTAL. Ras has successfully created a physical “Door” to other times and other places.
Now he has a weapon to defeat the Therns.
The HERO Subplot
As he developed his Time Machine, Ras Thavas also continued devising his Master Plan...
To begin with, the Master Mind will need a HERO.
Ras knows that the Thern Religion is too entrenched in Martian society to be defeated from within. He needs someone who wasn’t raised in Martian society. Someone who wasn’t programmed from birth with the Thern theology. Someone with no fear of the Holy Therns.
Ras realizes that he will need an offworlder.
And the nearest world is Earth.
Ras has long observed the curious antics of human life on neighboring “Jasoom”. (The Earth mammals are physically very similar to the Martian egg-layers.) He will find his hero there.
Ras begins his talent hunt. He has a certain criteria.
Any Hero must be able to excel in the Martian martial society.
So the Hero will have to be a Male. A warrior. Preferably a Swordsman. Someone who has commanded men. A charismatic leader able to ignite-a-popular-uprisingagainsttheTherns--
Ras Thavas finds his Hero in the person of Captain JOHN CARTER of Virginia.
But how to make the xenophobic Martians accept an alien as their (War)Lord and Master?
Ras comes up with another plan.
The Master Mind devises a “False Prophecy” scheme to make Carter more acceptable to the Martians. Ras creates his own tailor-made “Ancient Prophecy”. Ras’ prophecy predicts that a Hero will come from offworld to save Barsoom in her hour of greatest need...
Through his time travels, Ras knows when a certain archeological excavation is going to discover an ancient burial chamber. So he simply uses the Portal to travel back through time to just after the chamber was originally sealed up for posterity. Ras etches his “prophecy” on a clay tablet and plants it inside the chamber to be discovered in several thousand years...
Ras Thavas welcomes the exciting news from the excavation site. The Helium archaeologists quickly decipher the tablet (thanks to Ras’ expertise) and discover an Ancient Prophecy.
A Prophecy that promises a Hero. A Hero to save Barsoom. A Hero from Another World.
Ras Thavis turns his cunning to solving yet another possible problem.
What if the Hero refuses to come to Mars? Why would this “John Carter” willingly jump through the portal to a strange new world. A dangerous new world, full of monsters and death?
Why else? Sex.
Ras Thavas comes up with the perfect bait. The Most Beautiful Woman on Two Worlds. He will use the incomparable DEJAH THORIS to lure the earthman to Barsoom. Her love will keep him here until the job is finished. At which time, the earthman will become expendable and will be killed or sent back home to Jasoom, depending upon his luck.
Ras uses an offshoot of his Portal technology to plant images of Dejah Thoris into the earthman’s sleeping mind. He also uses the subliminal programming (advanced swordplay, Martian languages and customs, etc.) to prepare Carter for his coming adventures.
But why would Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, agree to be used as bait for an offworld ape?
Again Ras has the answer. He has long known of the Therns’ mad plans to sterilize the Red Men so that only the Therns can breed. (Note: This Thern Subplot has been replaced in the current movie outline by the Thern Doomsday Plot to destroy Zodanga’s Atmosphere Factory.)
Ras allowed the plan to proceed for two reasons.
First, it helps keep overpopulation from accelerating Mars’ decay. Second, Ras will use Helium’s desire for an heir to support his illegal Portal experiments.
With their males infertile, the royal family is desperate. Helium needs an heir. Tardos Mor, Jeddak of Helium, will do anything to continue his bloodline. Anything. (See “Helium Intrigue”.) Ras Thavas convinces Tardos Mor that the Hero of the Prophecy can be their stud bull.
“The First Pawn”
With all the pieces in place, the Master Mind sends a Portal to earth to bring Carter back.
Unfortunately, the Portal is a one-way trip. (The Portal alters a user’s molecular structure so he can only use the doorway once.) So Ras Thavas has to send a disassembled Portal, assembly instructions and an unlucky Technician through the Portal to a certain cave in Arizona.
(Ras knows that Carters flee from Indians to this cave.) The Technician re-assembles the Portal. The Martian dies in the cave and turns into the skeleton with sword that guards portal for Carter’s eventual arrival. The corpse also keeps the Indians from disturbing the device.
Everything proceeds according to plan. Years later, Carter flees from the Apaches. He runs into the cave. He stumbles upon the skeleton and activates the Portal. Lured by images of his dreamgirl, Carter steps through the portal...
But he carries the sword with him. The sword cannot return Remember: It is a one-way trip.
The sword throws Ras Thavas’ programming off and deposits John Carter in Tharkland instead of the palatial paradise of Helium.
Tardos Mors mounts an immediate expedition to find the misplaced Hero.
There are other forces in play on Barsoom besides the infamous Master Mind of Mars.
THE THERN PLOT
There is a certain THERN PRIEST on the court of Helium. He serves as a Counselor to the Jeddak. He is also A SPY.
This priest is secretly in contact with the sinister MATAI SHANG, Father of the Therns. Even though they live in Valley Dor, the supposed afterlife. That’s why it is a secret.
The Religion of the Therns controls Martian Society. They are the Power behind all thrones.
The Pilgrimage is an integral part of Martian society and keeps Martian population down. The Therns fear that the Red Men will eventually rebel against the Pilgrimage and their numbers will grow. So the Therns need to keep their population numbers manageable.
The Therns’ plan to sterilize the Red Men so that only the Therns may reproduce. They will breed the Red Men out of existence. The Therns enlist the aid of a rogue Scientist to develop an airborne virus that sterilizes Martian Males.
The priests or “HOLY THERNS” all wear a jewel on their head-dress. The Jewel is wired directly into their brains, programming them into Religious Zealots. They are all brainwashed.
MATAI SHANG controls the Master Jewel that programs all of the Holy Therns. He has an army of Religious Fanatics that are not afraid to die for him. He is ruthless in his ambition.
THE ZODANGAN PLOT
Zodanga have enjoyed a long partnership with the Warhoons. The Warhoons are the Zodangans’ muscle.
A ROGUE SCIENTIST(or is he under orders from the Conclave?) is working with the Zodanga on a secret Breeding Program. The Scientist is trying to develop creatures to defeat the Thark warriors. (Warhoons keep losing battles with Tharks.)
The Zodangan finance the Warhoons’ GREAT GAMES. The arena supplies all the raw materials that the Scientist needs for his work. They also use the gladiatorial games to try out their various genetic projects.
THAN KOSIS is the Jeddak of Zodangan. His son is SAB THAN. Than Kosis is a Thern in disguise. Carter reveals his true identity at the close of Princess. He reveals himself to be part of his Religion’s Master Plan to sterilize the Red Men, allowing only the Thern Males to reproduce. They will breed the Red Men out of existence.
But first, they must deal with the outworlder.
It is Than Kosis who devises the Doomsday Plot to blow up Helium’s Atmosphere Factory and blame it on Carter.
Carter stops the Thern Plot in “Princess” and stops the Therns themselves in “Gods” and destroys them totally in “Warlord”. The Therns are key plotline throughout initial trilogy.
THE SCIENTISTS’ PLOT
THE SCIENCE COUNCIL is gathered in Helium. Helium and its jeddak are known to be the most progressive of the Martian Nations. The Jeddak agrees with resurrecting the dead arts of the Orovars to rescue Mars. Only Science will save dying Mars. The Religion of Issus is defeatist. Though they are not warriors, the Scientists will not go down without a fight.
The Council is led by the Master Mind RAS THAVAS. They are not aware of his machinations. Even though they are telepathic and communicate in a hive mind. Ras has devised a protective shield to keep his thoughts to himself and deflect any telepathic query.
The Martian Scientists look down at the earth mammal. They refer to him as a hairy ape. There is no body hair on Martian males. Carter proudly displays his chesthair just to tick them off.
The Conclave has no further use for Carter. They want him gone. The earthman has outlived his usefulness.
Ras Thavas, of course, has his own plans for our hero.
There is intrigue in the Royal Palace of Helium.
TARDOS MOR is Jeddak of Helium. MOR KARDOS is his only son. Tardos will live forever. His son can only wait. Son is jealous of Father. Jealousy has become hatred. Kardos grows tired of waiting. The final insult is the relationship with Dejah Thoris.
Dejah is the last born of the Red Men. Her mother took the Journey down the Iss. (She could not live with her secret. The secret of what she had done to bare a child, to give Helium an heir.)
For Mors Kardos could not fertilize her. Again his father, Tardos Mor stepped in to do that which his son could not. Tardos impregnated his own daughter-in-law. Kardos’ wife never fully recovered. She could not live with her sin so she voluntarily sailed down river to paradise.
Tardos became more of a father to Dejah than Kardos. Tardos lavished attention on the girl while his son brooded upon his misfortune and lost wife. Brooded, but never had the courage to take the river journey and join his wife in the hereafter.
The Son turned his own cowardice into hatred for Father.
Mor Kardos’ anger and bitterness is a weakness exploited by Helium’s enemies. And can figure into the sequel storylines nicely. He will betray Helium to her enemies in one of the sequels.
Note: This radical of a take on Mor Kardos desecrates some of Burroughs squeaky clean characters but at least it makes the son memorable and gives him a reason to exist in the movie franchise.