This 'Doctor Strange' Joke Has Real Meaning

The latest Doctor Strange trailer is full of magic, mysticism and ample shots of Benedict Cumberbatch's questionable goatee — as well as a number of winking references to parts of the Doctor Strange comic book series that fans will be quick to spot. At the end of the trailer, for instance, Chiwetel Ejiofor's Karl Mordo hands Stephen Strange a small piece of paper which has the word "shamballa" written on it. Strange, who at this point is arrogant and doubtful, suspects a bit of mysticism and growls snarkily, "what is this, my mantra?" Mordo responds, "It's the wifi password. We're not savages." Yet what shamballa does mean actually goes way beyond internet access — the word has a deeper connection to the greater Doctor Strange world.

Readers of the Doctor Strange comics will surely recognize the word right away. In Tibetan Buddhist and Hindu traditions, Shamballa, also spelled Shambhala, refers to a mystical, mythical land, essentially shangri-la, hidden in the Himalayan Mountains. The Doctor Strange comic books pull from that ancient mythology, and Shamballa is the land from which our elaborately facial-haired hero's Tibetan mentor, the Ancient One (played by Tilda Swinton in the film) hails.

And since Swinton's version of The Ancient One is substantially different than the comics', where does Shamballa fit in? Fans can assume that Swinton's Ancient One visited the magical Shamballa — where the original Ancient One came from long ago — in her training. Perhaps, in later Doctor Strange films, moviegoers will get to visit the remarkable Shamballa and see it for themselves. The film's winking wifi acknowledgement indicates that it intends to incorporate Shamballa in one way or another, and it's possible that the small scene is foreshadowing for Strange to take a trip to Shamballa in a sequel, as he does in the story Doctor Strange: Into Shamballa , where he visits the city to honor The Ancient One.

Even if Shamballa isn't technically the birthplace of the film version of The Ancient One, it's reasonable to think that the franchise will eventually acknowledge the significance of the magical city and the role it plays in shaping both Strange and his mentor. So, in a sense, Shamballa may indeed become something of a mantra for Strange, too.

Images: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures