"I took from the books the message that as a woman to stand up, be powerful. And I found myself connecting them with other literature, like 'Fahrenheit 451,' '1984' — standing up against the government," she said. "It's not that the U.S. government is completely messed up, 'cause there's good things. If it wasn't for how our government's set up, I wouldn't be here — I wouldn't be coming to this college [UCLA].... But I hope it opens up kids' eyes that if you do something about it, it really does make a difference, because if one person stands up, other people start following."
For her part, Collins has said the Iraq war and reality television did partly inspire "The Hunger Games" and its two sequels. But she has been mum as to whether she has any leanings toward, say, the Occupy movement or critics who see government as too big.
Still, as the film rolls out, the chorus of discordant voices will likely grow louder. "There's kind of a coattails thing where people say, 'I'm going to take my issue and staple it on to "The Hunger Games" and it will carry my issue further than it would make it otherwise,' " said Greg Garrett, an English professor at Baylor University. (Fox News' Pinkerton wrote that, because of its success, "as an indicator of youth sentiment, the movie could prefigure, and accelerate, future political change.")
Some commentators are taking their interpretations in especially fanciful directions. In an only slightly tongue-in-cheek piece in the Huffington Post, blogger Fred Goldring sees the story's "Tributes" — young people who must fight to death — as representative of various presidential candidates.
Mitt Romney, he said, is a "career Tribute," a reference to children bred for the competition. Rick Santorum, meanwhile, has similarities to the heroine, Katniss Everdeen — a figure who is "a scrappy upstart from a poor coal mining community who does not have the same pre-ordained privilege, training and money in his background."
And Newt Gingrich? Goldring said he's a nose-to-spite-his-face Tribute. Like some of the competitors in "The Hunger Games," Gingrich is a contestant "willing to say anything rather than see either of the other … candidates succeed."
VIDEO: 'The Hunger Games' movie review
Staff writer Emily Rome contributed to this report.