Iron Man 3: Swiss Potatoes au Gratin

Year Released: 2013
Directed by: Shane Black
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce
(PG-13, 130 min.)

“We create our own demons.”  Anonymous quote via Tony Stark

Is Tony Stark morphing into a metrosexual?  Has he been paling around with Pepper Potts (or Gwyeneth Paltrow) too much lately?  Yeah, the bad boy is certainly more sensitive, caring and committed in this third installment, a better man, so to speak. That doesn't mean we have to like it, though.

Our manly superhero is vulnerable now, just like the similarly neutered James Bond, “pinch-faced and anemic looking,” or the deconstructed Sherlock Homes, “dependent and pathetic” who now confronts us weekly on CBS.

Tony now suffers anxiety attacks.  Those alien attacks in New York have apparently unsettled him.  They also seem to have taken away at least half of his mother wit.  Gone are the Tony put-downs he hoisted at fellow Avengers as short a time ago as last summer.  Who else but Tony Stark would dare dis a demi-god as he did with Thor in 2012, calling him, among other things, Shakespeare in the Park, or Point Break?

When this Tony does throw down the gauntlet at the latest super menace, Mandarin, it is really dumb bravado and witless in more ways than one.  Something along the lines of a junior high taunt. “Come and get me.  And here’s my address, just so you know I mean it.”

As though in this age of non privacy the goon couldn’t just scoop up Tony’s address from the internet.  And Tony doesn’t even think about any defenses for his "Jetson" style pad leaning out over the Pacific like a boxer jutting his chin out for a bruising.  It’s Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) who has the smarts to plan a quick getaway from their digs, only she is just a little too late.

And where is the Tony who raged against the Man and all the PC balderdash that gummed up the works in DC?  The most he complains about is that his latest iron clad gift to the government, presently manned by best friend James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), is now called Iron Patriot instead of War Machine.

On the positive side, the film has benefitted by limiting itself in terms of villains.  Unlike the overstuffed Iron Man 2, where Tony had to cope with a swarmy senator, an unctuous rival, a diabolically delicious Mickey Rourke as a Russian rogue out for revenge, not to mention a mysterious new secretary who may or may not be working against him, here he only faces Mandarin, an over-the-top villain in the James Bond tradition, complete with a cadre of exploding soldiers and mad scientists lurking beneath his robes.

But Mandarin’s real purpose is somewhat muddled.  I’ll guess we’ll settle for the old world domination and power grab that is the default position of the 007 vintages.

Tony’s best interactions are with Harley ((Ty Simpkins), a scruffy ten-year-old Tony has to depend on when he crash lands his suit in Tennessee.  The boy has Tony’ acerbic wit and seems to reawaken it in Tony.  His father is not around.  He left to get a scratch off at the local convenience store – well-timed dramatic pause  – and it must have been a good ticket since that was almost decade ago.  But Tony doesn’t fall for those “I’m an abandoned kid and you’d better be extra nice to me” manipulations, roaring away in his car and telling Harley, “Dads leave. No need to be such a pussy about it.”

There’s a nod to the old Disney version of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, too. You know, the one with Mickey Mouse in the role of the lazy helper who puts a spell on the nearby broom to perform his work of carrying buckets of water from the well.  When the room begins to look a lot like the Sea of Galilee, Mickey cannot find the right words to stop the magical broom and resorts to chopping it into pieces.  Each piece in turn, becomes a new broom retrieving fresh buckets from the well.

Tony seems to have done the same with his Iron Man suits, his cellar closet is as full as Liberace’s with the glittering garb.  It’s what he does when he can’t sleep at night.  I’ll let you see for yourself whether they help or get out of control like Mickey’s multiplying brooms.

At any rate, perhaps we might see our own multiplying brooms in the self-generating sequels of successful movies, especially the comic book come to life variety, that are cranked out every summer.  Have they begun to drain the well yet?

–Kathy Borich


Film-Loving Foodie 

The seeds of Iron Man 3 are sown in Geneva, Switzerland, 1999.  There Tony meets two scientists he treats in his typical cavalier fashion.  And that comes back to bite him.

As the film opens, Tony is not doing to well either.  Those extra-terrestrail aliens from his Avengers days are haunting his nights.  He can’t sleep and his cravings for pizza and cheeseburgers have faded to zero.

Maybe we can tempt him with some Swiss treats from back when he was a brilliant cad and proud to be one.  Who could resist this Swiss version of Potatoes au Gratin using Gruyere cheese?  This one comes from one very Swiss grossmutter.  That’s “grandmother” to any mono-linguals out there. En Guete!

Swiss Potatoes au Gratin


Original recipe makes 1 - 9x13 inch pan

2 tablespoons softened butter

2 1/2 pounds potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

2 large onions, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

3/4 cup white wine

1/3 cup water

3/4 cup heavy cream


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish with the softened butter. 

Toss the potato slices and chopped onions with salt and pepper, and spread 1/3 of the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle half of the Gruyere cheese over the potatoes, then add another layer of potatoes. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese followed by the remaining potatoes. Mix together the water and wine, and pour into dish. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. 

Bake in preheated oven until the potatoes are tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Once tender, remove the foil, and pour the cream evenly over the potatoes. Bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes to brown the top and thicken the cream.