Hollywood loves epic stories, even if some of the story is not true. Knowing this I decided to go anyway.
It starts just after the Persian victory at the Battle of Thermopylae with a back story that is absolutely false. Themistocles, a hero at the Battle of Marathon, did not kill the Persian king Darius I(Xerxes’ father) with a lucky arrow shot. Darius I wanted to go back to Greece to settle the score, but a revolt in Egypt broke out that drew him away from Greece. He died of old age after 35 years ruling the Persian Empire at the age of 64.
Xerxes I went back to Greece because he wanted revenge for the loss at Marathon and started the Second Greco-Persian War. However, the main antagonist in the movie was not Xerxes I; but it was a Greek-born Persian naval officer named (Queen) Artemisia (I of Caria). Here comes more back story from Hollywood that is false. Her family was not killed by Greek hoplites and made in to a Greek slaver sex-slave. She could be considered to be loyal to the Persian throne since her father was the satrap, or governor, of Halicarnassus; and her rank of being a Queen by marriage in another satrap.
The battles within the movie were accurate
Battle of Artemisium: Persia lost more ships and men, but forced the allied Greek states to retreat. It is a push.
Sacking of Athens: a moral victory for Persia, a psychological rally point for allied Greek states.
Battle of Salamis: absolute victory for the allied Greek states; turning point that would break Persia’s will.
At the end of the movie more false history during the Battle of Salamis, Themistocles did not kill Artemisia. She was a confidant to Xerxes I and faded away as time progressed after the Battle of Salamis.
The title of the movie is somewhat missing leading as well. Greece did not progress into empire-building mode for another 100 years. During this time Greek city-states had many more battles with Persia and among themselves until the rise of Macedonia and a young Macedonian king name Alexander III(better known as the Great) unified Greece and sacked the Persian Empire.
This movie is only eye-candy for viewing “sweaty” men fighting and nothing more than that.
And I want my money back.