Even Collins' twist — making the combatants teenagers — was already done, in “Battle Royale” (2000), the final work from master director Kinji Fukasaku. Collins says she was unfamiliar with the Japanese film (and the preceding novel and manga). Most of the films' similarities spring naturally from the hook, so she may deserve the benefit of the doubt, though a few — each kid having a different, single weapon, for instance — seem more than coincidental.
Teen fiction may strike grown-ups as, by its nature, kitsch — to paraphrase a commercial of some decades ago, “Kitsch is for kids!” — but, on screen, “The Hunger Games” has the benefit of respectful, irony-free direction from Gary Ross (“Pleasantville,” “Seabiscuit”). Early on, Ross uses some unmotivated and unnecessary handheld camera, and the effects used to create the city are sometimes cheap-looking and unconvincing, but in general he gets the job done tastefully.