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John Carter

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, presumably started by Union soldiers.
  • 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
  • I Choose to Stay: Once he learns how to get back to Earth, Carter, having fallen in love with Dejah and befriending the Tharks, chooses to stay on Mars. This is then tragically subverted no less than a minute later when he is sent back to Earth by Matai Shang.
  • Master Swordsman: He turns out to be quite the fighter with a sword, although it's possible his enhanced abilities on the surface of Mars might play a big part in it as well.
  • 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 Tharks 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.


In General

  • The Big Guy: A normal Thark is almost twice as tall as an ordinary human.
  • Blood Knight: Tharks love fighting, and their usual means of dealing with prisoners is having them thrown into fighting pits.
  • Fantastic Racism: They are well-aware of the centuries-long war between Helium and Zodanga, but would rather watch both sides kill each other than pick a side.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Tharks all have four arms and are a very brutal race of fighters and scavengers.
  • Virtue Is Weakness: Thark society generally views aspects such as sympathy and compassion as crimes in Thark society, which is why they are so quick to turn on Tars once they learn that he spared John and Sola.

Tars Tarkas

Played By: Willem Dafoe

  • Asskicking Equals Authority: He's the head of his own tribe of Tharks and is also a fearsome warrior to boot.
  • All of the Other Reindeer:
  • Badass Boast: "Leave a Thark his head and one hand, and he may yet conquer!"
  • The Big Guy
  • Bruiser with a Soft Center: He's a member of a brutal race of alien warriors, but he has a hidden soft spot that he has to keep hidden from the others due to their brutal lifestyle. He even has a case of Manly Tears during Carter and Dejah's wedding.
  • 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.
  • Dope Slap: Played for Laughs when John ends up leading him and the Tharks to the wrong city to stop Sab Than.
  • Genius Bruiser
  • Hidden Depths: Tars has an unusual amount of compassion and sympathy that does not otherwise exist in his race, a fact that is frowned upon by Thark society.
  • 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 in Thark society.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Like any Thark, he takes great pride and pleasure in warfare and battle.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: His relationship with Carter in a nut-shell. Even when he gets so mad at Carter he could rip his arms out, he continues to support him at all times.


Played By: Samantha Morton

  • The Chick
  • The Dog Bites Back: After spending much of the film being abused by Sarkoja, Sola finally gets even with her rival by dragging Sarkoja into the arena and the path of a rampaging white ape, which promptly tears Sarkoja apart.
    Sarkoja: Watch your father die like the whimpering calot he is!
    Sola: No! Let us watch you!
  • 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.
  • 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.

Tal Hajus

Played By: Thomas Haden Church


Played By: Polly Walker


    Red Martians 

Tardos Mors

Played By: Ciarian Hinds

Dejah Thoris

The Princess of Helium and the Deuteragonist of the movie.
Played By: Lynn Collins

Sab Than

Played By: Dominic West

  • Adaptational Villainy: Movie!Sab is much more vicious than Book!Sab (though admittedly, Book!Sab had next to no characterization).
  • An Arm and a Leg: Carter lops off his hand during the climax.
  • 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 Therns.
  • Blood Knight: He takes great pleasure in slaughtering the people of Helium.
  • 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: Of the city of Zodanga.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Can turn on the charm when he wants, but underneath it he's a complete slimeball.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: When he's about to tell Carter everything he knows about the Therns, Matai Shang kills him using the Ninth Ray against him.
  • 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.

Kantos Kan

Played By: James Purefoy
The 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.


Matai Shang

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 a 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 established as the Big Bad from the get-go.
  • The Chessmaster: The Therns basically manipulate and supervise the wide-scale destruction of planets and civilizations.
  • 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: Given that he and his race can be categorized as a group of Chess Masters, this can easily be his second most defining quality. He acts as a sort of advisor for Sab Than, but in actuality is manipulating his every move as an Unwitting Pawn.
  • Squishy Wizard: His Magic from Technology may give him great power, but it doesn't save him from being tackled by Woola. Or being killed by a simple revolver.
    John Carter: Immortal ain't bulletproof.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: One of the many abilities conferred by the Thern medallions.


Edgar Rice Burroughs

Played By: Daryl Sabara

Colonel Powell

Played By: Bryan Cranston


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