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Played By: Taylor Kitsch
- Adaptational Angst Upgrade: Book Carter is a very straight-up heroic type. Movie Carter starts out embittered after the Civil War and the loss of his family. For a good portion of the movie, all he wants is to get back home, not wanting anything to do with the war, before finding his inner hero on Mars.
- The Ageless: After returning from Barsoom, John appears to have stopped aging after ten years.
- Batman Gambit: Pulls off a surprisingly good one against the Thern agent on Earth.
- Battle Couple: With Dejah at the climax.
- Challenging the Chief: Against Tal Hajus. Which he wins effortlessly.
- Chronic Hero Syndrome: If John sees someone is in serious danger he will intervene on their behalf. He just can't help himself.
- Dark and Troubled Past: His wife and child were tragically lost in a house fire.
- Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: He seems a bit wayward at first, and even when he first shows up on Mars, the only thing he really wants to do is go back home. Then he starts getting attached to the Tharks as well as Dejah...
- Dual Wielding: Most scenes depict him wielding two swords in battle.
- Empowered Badass Normal: John is a completely normal, if not skilled, cavalry soldier on Earth. On Mars, he's a One-Man Army.
- The Hero
- Master Swordsman
- Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: Barsoom's lower gravity makes this average human capable of superhuman feats of strength and endurance.
- Which is just silly; Barsoom and Mars both have the same surface gravity (0.38 of Earth's surface gravity), so John Carter would only be able to lift a bit over 2.5 times more than what he is capable of on Earth. Also mass is independent of local gravity, he'd still have to overcome the same amount of inertia to get something to move. Pretty much all of his feats can be chalked up to Rule of Cool.
- However, the original books were written at the very beginning of the 20th century, when no one really knew what operating in low gravity would be like, so it's excusable for Burroughs to amp it up quite a bit...
- Took a Level in Kindness: The bonds he forms with the Tarks as well as his relationship with Dejah, help John become a more noble and heroic man by the end of the movie.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: In his Barsoomian outfit.
Played By: Willem Dafoe
- Asskicking Equals Authority
- Badass Boast: "Leave a Thark his head and one hand, and he may yet conquer!"
- The Big Guy
- The Chains of Commanding: He takes his role as Jeddak of the Tharks very seriously, but having to continually live up to the downright brutal expectations of a Green Martian leader plainly wears heavily on him.
- Composite Character: In the book, the leader of the Thark horde that Carter falls in with is Lorquas Ptomel; Tars is his second-in-command. As Tars is a much more important character- and Lorquas pretty much drops off the face of Barsoom after a while- Tars gets to take over the leader-role in the film.
- Deadpan Snarker: Has his moments.
- Genius Bruiser
- Multi-Armed and Dangerous
- Noble Demon: Even before his Heel–Face Turn, it's clear he's a lot more honorable and compassionate than most of the other Tharks.
- Papa Wolf: He is fiercely protective over his daughter, Sola, something that is frowned upon among the Tharks.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy
Played By: Samantha Morton
- The Chick
- In the Blood: Tars Tarkas is her father, and it's no coincidence they're the two nicest Tharks. "The blood of my father drives me" indeed. Her Missing Mom is implied to have been in the same vein.
- She was
- Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Though a good deal less dangerous than most Tharks. Though she certianly has her moments.
- My Species Doth Protest Too Much: She's a good deal less brutal and more compassionate than is considered seemly in a Thark, which has led to a very hard life for her.
- Proud Warrior Race Girl: Played with. Sola is rarely seen without her weapons, but her personality is such that she only fights when necessary. She clearly believes in the Thark ideals of courage and honor, but can't deal with her people's brutality.
Played By: Thomas Haden Church
- Big Bad Wannabe: Factors into the plot even less than Sab Than does.
- Blood Knight
- The Brute
- Evil Counterpart: To Tars Tarkas.
- Off with His Head!
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: Evil version.
- 0% Approval Rating: It's clear the other Tharks don't like him, either before or after he becomes Jeddak. Most of them are perfectly willing to support Carter's right of challenge as a result. He was pretty much a degenerate pervert in the book.
Played By: Polly Walker
Played By: Ciarian Hinds
- Big Good
- Bumbling Dad
- Composite Character
- Horrible Judge of Character: Thinking he could trust Sab Than to keep his word about not attacking his people in exchange for his daughter's hand in marriage.
- Nice Guy
- Royals Who Actually Do Something
Dejah ThorisThe Princess of Helium and the Deuteragonist of the movie.
Played By: Lynn Collins
- Adaptational Badass: In the original story, Dejah was portrayed as the stereotypical damsel in distress. Here, she's a bonafide badass who can handle herself just fine, only needing to be saved once or twice by John.
- Adaptational Wimp: Thoris is significantly less political in the movie. It may not sound like much, but she was the original inspiration for Princess Leia, and the book makes it clear that for all her attraction to Carter, she was not above manipulating him for the greater good of Barsoom.
- Arranged Marriage: Forced into one with Sab Than in exchange for a truce between their cities.
- Battle Couple: With Carter at the climax.
- Damsel out of Distress: When Sab Than takes her captive during the final battle, she stabs him through the wrist to escape.
- Everything's Better with Princesses
- Human Aliens: Of the Red-Skinned Space Babe variety.
- Lady of War: There's a definite fire in Dejah that nobody can ignore.
- The Lancer:
- Proud Warrior Race Girl:
- The Smart Girl: She's definitely got a brain on her.
- Warrior Princess: Due to being a Proud Warrior Race Guy and a princess she can handle her own in a fight is far from a damsel in distress. Lampshaded by John Carter after their first meeting.John: Maybe I ought to get behind you.Dejah: You let me know when it gets dangerous.
Played By: Dominic West
- Adaptational Villainy: Movie!Sab is much more vicious than Book!Sab (though admittedly, Book!Sab had next to no characterization).
- Big Bad Wannabe: He's pretty happy in the hopeless delusion that he's the toughest, smartest guy in the room, when really he's more of an Unwitting Pawn to the Thern.
- Blood Knight
- The Brute: Explicitly described as such by both Dejah and Matai Shang.
- Composite Character: In the book, Sab Than was the prince of Zodanga and its Jeddak was his father Than Kosis. In the movie, Sab is Jeddak and Than Kosis is nowhere to be seen.
- The Dragon: Though Matai Shang lets him think he's the Big Bad.
- Empowered Badass Normal: Starts out "normal" for a Red Martian, and then he gets Thern technology...
- Evil Counterpart: To Carter. Both were warriors who found themselves in possession of incredible power, but where Carter at first just wanted to go home, and then used his abilities to save Dejah, Helium, and Barsoom, Sab revels in his power and wants to Take Over the World.
- Evil Overlord
- Faux Affably Evil: Can turn on the charm when he wants, but underneath it he's a complete slimeball.
- Human Aliens
- Killed Off for Real
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: He's a horrible person, make no mistake of that. But unlike most Evil Overlord, he actually leads from the front lines on several occasions, even before getting his super weapon from the Therns.
- Smug Snake
- Slimeball: How he comes across when he tries to be charming. He's actually more affable when he's being his real, evil self.
- Take Over the World: His main goal is to take over Barsoom. OF COURSE!
- Took a Level in Badass: Thanks to the Thern technology.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Courtesy of Matai Shang.
Played By: James PurefoyThe Jedwar of the Helluminatic navy who becomes one of Carter and Dejah's closest allies.
- The Charmer: Downplayed. While it isn't presented outright, he manages to make his way to Carter's cell without drawing his weapons and smoothly talks his way past the guards. And when he and Carter crash into Dejah's bed chamber, his first instinct is to flirt with her handmaidens.
- Deadpan Snarker: He gets a few good ones every now and then.
- Demoted to Extra: In the novels, Kantos was one of Carter's best friends. Here, his screentime is limited to only a few, albeit entertaining, scenes.
- Plucky Comic Relief: Him helping Carter escape certainly establishes this.
- Undying Loyalty: To Tardos Mors, Dejah Thoris and the rest of the Helluminatic city.
Played By: Mark Strong
- Adaptational Badass: In addition to the Therns as a whole getting a major tech-upgrade, Book!Matai Shang basically sat on his throne and didn't get involved until Carter was already exposing the Therns' false religion. In the movie, he's a much more proactive, Darth Sidious-esque schemer.
- Affably Evil: He's not an unpleasant sort to be around, for chessmastering planet-conquering alien godling, and actually seems to enjoy his cat-and-mouse game with Carter. "Your move, Earthman."
- A God Am I: Given that fact that he and the rest of the Thern supervise and manipulate the destruction of civilizations and planets, Matai feels a sense of superiority and power over beings such as Carter.
- Bald of Evil: He's got a bald head and is undeniably evil.
- Big Bad: He and the Thern are the Catalysts of the conflict.
- Breakout Villain: He's not mentioned until the second book and doesn't get involved personally until the third. Here, he's Big Bad from the get-go.
- The Chessmaster: The Therns basically manipulate and supervise the wide-scale destruction of planets and civilizations, using Sab Than as an Unwitting Pawn.
- Creepy Blue Eyes
- Emotion Eater: At one point he explains that he (and by extension all Therns) feed off of the negative emotions of other life forms. Thus making the Therns a kind of Psychic Vampire race.
- For the Evulz: Explicitly says he has no cause. 'Course, he may have been lying- Therns tend to do that.
- Human Aliens: Assuming his Shapeshifter Default Form is what he really looks like, he's completely indistinguishable from a Caucasian human.
- Magic from Technology
- Manipulative Bastard
- Squishy Wizard: His Magic from Technology may give him great power, but it doesn't save him from being tackled by Woola.
- Sufficiently Advanced Alien
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: One of the many abilities conferred by the Thern medallions.
- Shapeshifter Default Form: He usually looks like a tall, bald, pale-skinned humanlike man in grey robes.
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Played By: Daryl Sabara
- Historical-Domain Character: In Real Life, Edgar Rice Burroughs was the author of the Barsoom series, which the film is based on.
- Nice Guy
- Secret Keeper
- Young Future Famous People: The movie is essentially a Leaning on the Fourth Wall of Edgar becoming inspired as to writing stories based on John Carter's adventures on Mars.
Played By: Bryan Cranston