For me, one part of the film, two scenes, really stand out as being worthwhile, though they will be of most benefit only to those who know their history and in light of the events of our own time. In the first, Emperor Maximilian comes to meet with the captured rebel General Porfirio Diaz in his prison cell, in an effort to convince him to take a message to his president, offering to make Juarez the Prime Minister of the Mexican Empire. Emperor Maximilian has some very good lines as he makes the case for having a free and liberal society with a benevolent monarch at its head as a sort of safety valve. He presents such a good case that he seems to have won Diaz over and convinced him that the Emperor is a man of sincerity who wants the same things for Mexico that Juarez wants and Diaz goes to deliver this message to the President along with his offer to make Juarez his premier and allow him to run the government of Imperial Mexico. The next scene is Juarez, with kindly bemusement, listening to the naive, young general who has been duped by Maximilian. Juarez then starts preaching the republican gospel to Porfirio and showing him the error of his ways.
Juarez explains to poor, ignorant, Porfirio that Maximiliano duped him. When Diaz explained how honest and sincere the Emperor was, Juarez responds that, "virtue is a powerful weapon in the hands of an enemy" which is meant to sound "wise" but is absurd if you think about it for more than a second. It essentially says that Maximilian is wrong regardless of whether he is wicked or virtuous. He says that the unbridgeable gulf between himself and Maximilian is "democracy" and that this is the right of men to rule themselves. He explains that since a man never rules himself into bondage, freedom flows from democracy like the rivers flow from the mountains, just as naturally and serenely. This is, of course, quite hilarious given that Mexico itself democratically voted itself into bondage more than once. The PRI, for example, held tyrannical control over Mexico for the better part of the last century. Yet, the current President of Mexico was the leader of the PRI, voted back into power after a break of only two non-PRI presidents. It is also extremely laughable in the context of Juarez, a man who came to the presidency not by election, speaking to Porfirio Diaz who would go on to lead a rebellion against Juarez, then run for president himself, winning on the promise that he would serve only one term, only to then rule as dictator of Mexico for the next 35 years!
Oh Hollywood, you really are too much sometimes...