Star Wars original trilogy characters Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb returned for the sequel trilogy. The ultimate fate of one of these characters was handled well while the other’s fate was handled poorly.
Warning: There are SPOILERS ahead for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Star Wars has created a number of iconic alien characters over the years. This includes Admiral Gial Ackbar and Nien Nunb, two fan-favorite characters introduced in Return of the Jedi. Courtesy of Ackbar, the line “It’s a trap!” remains one of the most famous lines in Star Wars, not to mention the countless memes it’s created.
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While not as well known as the Mon Calamari leader from the Battle of Endor, Nien Nunb has his fair share of fans as well. The Sullustan is Lando Calrissian’s co-pilot during the Battle of Endor and his trademark laughter also makes him a memorable character. Ackbar and Nien Nunb were fleshed out much further by both the Legends EU and in the current canon.
Naturally, such fan-favorite characters and heroes of the Rebellion were brought back for the sequel film trilogy, now as key members of the Resistance. From the Battle of Starkiller Base, to the evacuation of the Resistance from D’Qar, both Ackbar and Nien Nunb aided the Resistance in a number of ways.
Sadly, the sequel trilogy also featured the deaths of both characters, with Ackbar’s death being handled well and Nien Nunb’s death being handled terribly.
Many fans were upset by Ackbar’s death in The Last Jedi. Instead of dying when the First Order blew up the bridge of the Raddus, some felt it would’ve been more meaningful for him to be the one to pull off the Holdo Maneuver.
Ackbar’s death is meaningful, though. Saying that the Resistance leadership has been mostly wiped out feels hollow if the audience doesn’t have a connection to any of the characters who were killed. By stating that Ackbar is gone, there’s an emotional connection, one that makes the Resistance’s devastation and despair feel real for the audience.
When Ackbar’s demise was revealed, I actually gasped. As someone who almost never reacts out loud when watching a movie, this is a big deal. I couldn’t believe that this leader and hero from my childhood was gone. Much like Wedge Antilles when he learns that Ackbar is dead in the novel Resistance Reborn, a part of me believed Ackbar would live forever, making the news difficult to process. It genuinely stunned and upset me, but in a way that works well for the narrative. The Last Jedi makes it clear that Ackbar is gone, how he died, and the impact that places on the quickly dwindling Resistance and their leadership.
Nien Nunb’s death in The Rise of Skywalker is another matter entirely. Most fans didn’t even realize the character died. It wasn’t until Star Wars author Rae Carson posted on social media that it became common knowledge. That in itself is a huge problem.
Some will argue that if major characters like Rey, Finn, or Poe weren’t going to die during the Battle of Exegol, the movie had to kill off a few recognizable members of the Resistance. That argument might work with a character like Snap Wexley who audiences actually saw die in the film. It doesn’t work with Nien Nunb because practically no one realized he died in the first place. At least with Snap Wexley, fans get to see Poe shouting in despair when his friend dies.
As one of the few characters to appear in Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker, Nien Nunb deserved better. If he was meant to die during the Battle of Exegol, it should’ve been shown and ideally other characters would’ve reacted to it. Such an issue highlights an ongoing problem with the movie as too many things are being revealed on social media, in interviews, or in the Visual Dictionary after the movie has already been released.
It was fun to see Ackbar and Nien Nunb return in the sequel trilogy films, but Nien Nunb definitely deserved a better end.
What do you think of how the fates of Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb were handled? Let us know in the comments!