John Carter (Taylor Kitsh) is a former confederate soldier who has fled the battlefields and is living a rough and roguish life. He drinks, he defies the law, and he hunts for gold in the hills. When attempting to avoid capture after his latest adventure, he hides in a cave which is carved in the hillside. In this cave is an object that mysteriously transports him from Earth to Mars.
It’s not immediately clear to John that he has been transported to Mars (or ‘Barsoom’ as the inhabitants call it). His body works differently, the landscape is slightly harsher than the desert he knows, and there are some rather weird-looking creatures around the place. Once he does realise where he is, it soon becomes clear that all is not well on the red planet.